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Update: Ultimate Frisbee League reverses decision, will let players wear rainbows in N.C.

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The American Ultimate Disc League first barred, and has since allowed, an Austin team looking to wear rainbows in North Carolina in support of LGBT people in the Tar Heel state.

Hannah Peters/Getty Images

UPDATE: Thursday, April 14, 10:05pmET

The American Ultimate Disc League has rescinded its previous decision and will allow teams to wear rainbow wrist bands in North Carolina. The League's full statement:

This week, the AUDL Executive Council made a decision regarding a request from the Austin Sol franchise to wear rainbow wristbands in support of the LGBTQ community in North Carolina. After attempting to address a request regarding uniform policy with a measured response informed by consistency towards the application of rules, the American Ultimate Disc League is retracting its initial position with regards to the disallowing of rainbow colored wristbands by the Austin Sol this weekend when traveling to Charlotte and Raleigh, North Carolina.

The original decision to not allow the display of the bands on the game field was not reached without debate. After the Sol team contacted us of their decision as a franchise, we considered our governing AUDL Bylaws, Internal Operations Manual and Rulebook, and discussed the issue from a number of perspectives, and made our decision, suggesting they wear the wristbands during warmups and after the game. But after listening to the reaction of our community—the many players and fans that form the framework and foundation for our league—we decided to revisit the issue.

We feel that the importance of the team being allowed to make a collective statement that is humanist and good—to use their voice in a constructive manner—was more important than an appeal to rigid business logic. The reality is that we are a young league that is rapidly growing, and at times find ourselves having to make decisions on important matters quickly.

We believe it is right to allow teams to express their own reasonable views. Ultimately, our mission is to provide an inclusive atmosphere that is representative of our sport, its values, and most importantly its people.

We hear you.

We choose invoke the integrity rule: The Austin Sol are given approval to wear the wristbands.

ORIGINAL STORY:

The American Ultimate Disc League, one of the professional ultimate (Frisbee) leagues in the United States, has announced it will not allow players to wear rainbow-colored apparel in North Carolina, despite it not being expressly against league policy.

As reported by Ultiworld, the Austin Sol had notified the league that players intended to wear rainbow wrist bands during the team's matches at Charlotte and Raleigh, both in North Carolina, this weekend. League commissioner Steve Gordon told the team that the league would not allow the wrist bands.

From Ultiworld:

By the AUDL's rulebook, the Sol would not be in direct violation of the uniform guidelines, which state, "Visible base layers, headbands, wristbands, or any miscellaneous items shall be uniform within each team and shall not be frayed or ragged." But, according to Gordon, all uniform items are subject to AUDL consent.

"Everything that you're wearing during the game has to be approved by the league," said Gordon, adding, "Anything that we discussed was not really about this issue but about the general policy on issues like this now and in the future."

This comes on the heels of a recent column by pro ultimate player Will Neff in ultimate's SKYD magazine, wondering why more gay men don't flock to the sport of ultimate, with its "alternative" aura. In the column he answers his own question: The "straight bro" culture that dominates ultimate - the heterosexism of it - is as powerful as homophobia in other sports.

In my 25 years as a high school, college and club-sport athlete, I was called a "faggot" only once, after I caught a score over one of Southern California's top ultimate players. He decided yelling "faggot" at me might somehow undo the embarrassing point. It didn't. Later in the season he apologized, saying he didn't realize I was gay. That's why you keep slurs off your lips on the field no matter who you think is around.

Also in those 25 years, I fell in love with only one fellow athlete. He played ultimate for UCLA when I had just graduated from Stanford. By some miracle he was gay too. It was because of my unavoidable emotion for him that I came out six weeks after meeting him. If it weren't for ultimate, I don't know when I would have ever come out.

Truth is, ultimate is a mixed bag of heterosexism, homophobia, understanding and compassion.

The move by AUDL, blocking a team from expressing its collective support for LGBT people, is desperately misguided.

LGBT rights, and the incredible struggle virtually every LGBT person endures simply trying to find themselves, aren't political issues, they are human issues. While politicians in North Carolina and Mississippi (and frankly across the country) have politicized our rights, wearing a rainbow-colored wrist band is about love and human dignity. It's not about creating new regulations to bar people from expressing their support for people whose rights and equality are under attack.

To make matters worse, the league allowed a team to wear rainbow head bands during Pride Week last year.

For a sport whose special nature has been built on individual expression and freedom, it is disappointing that Gordon and his AUDL cohorts would prevent a team from expressing their support for a community under attack in North Carolina.

It makes me ashamed to be an ultimate player.

Hat tip to Antoine Johnson