School Sports Newfoundland and Labrador says a Mount Pearl basketball team was never denied entry into a provincial tournament, despite claims that the team was unfairly banned because of a lack of players.
"It is unfortunate that the negative messages being circulated via social media are spreading so much misinformation and being propagated by people who have little to no knowledge of the situation," said SSNL's board of directors in an emailed statement to CBC News on Saturday.
'Ultimately, it was their decision not to play in this tournament.' - School Sports Newfoundland and Labrador
Some students at O'Donel High School in Mount Pearl took to Twitter to voice their displeasure with the governing body of school sports in the province.
The team said it could only find seven players willing to lace up for this year's basketball season. To pad out the lineup, the team took on an additional four players from the neighbouring St. Peter's Junior High.
And that's the problem.
According to statements posted by the players on Twitter, SSNL said the four players were unable to participate in next week's 4A tournament because too many of them are not yet O'Donel students.
While SSNL does allow teams to pull players from feeder schools, at least 80 per cent of the team must be comprised of high school students.
In its statement, School Sports said "these rules ensure the fair and equal treatment of all and must be enforced consistently across the province," and while O'Donel players got approval from the school to take on junior high school students, SSNL did not give its consent.
"O'Donel High School is a member of SSNL," the statement read.
'I hope in the next few years, these rules are changed.' - Natasha Knight, O'Donel High School student
"The coaches of the girls basketball team at O'Donel High were informed by their school at the beginning of the season that students from outside their school were ineligible for SSNL competitions unless approved through the established procedures."
SSNL goes on to state that an appeal was made on the team's behalf, but SSNL denied that request.
"They were never disqualified from or denied entry into the SSNL 4A Tier 1 Girls Varsity Basketball Provincials. They were never removed ... because they had never registered for the tournament in the first place," it said.
"Ultimately, it was their decision not to play in this tournament."
Jess Eastman, a grade nine student, said it's unfair to deny the high school seniors what would be their last chance to represent their school at a provincial competition, and called on School Sports NL to "change the rules."
In a post made by soon-to-be graduate Natasha Knight, she said "this isn't fair to us or the grade nines who have practiced with us since October."
"I hope in the next few years, these rules are changed so other girls in my position will get a chance to play," Knight said.
Their pleas haven't gone unnoticed.
Former professional basketball player and current Toronto Raptors commentator Leo Rautins also took to social media to show his support.
He even took time during Friday nights' TSN broadcast of the Raptors game to talk about the issue, asking School Sports NL to "let them play."
The same sentiment has been echoed by ex-player turned Raptors analyst Morris Peterson, as well as professional player and fellow Newfoundlander Carl English.
Let them play https://t.co/raFRFfycoT— @mopete24