An 11-year-old Central Bucks girl is asking the local Catholic youth sports organization to let her continue playing football - and she is not alone.
The story of Caroline Pla is gaining national attention, as the girl and her family challenge the Archdiocese of Philadelphia over a rule that says football is for boys only.
Caroline has been playing football for Catholic Youth Organization for two years, her mother Marycecelia Pla writes in a petition at change.org. A student at Cold Spring Elementary School, Caroline fell in love with the sport as a toddler and started playing when she was 5 years old. At 11, she is physically able to compete and has been a contributor and equal part of the team all along, her mother said.
But the Archdiocese found out Caroline was playing and moved to put a stop to it, the Plas said.
"According to the rule, she is no longer allowed to continue, as the CYO office looks to enforce this archaic language in their handbook - that football is for boys," Marycecelia Pla wrote. "The rule, as it stands now, will prevent any girl in the future from participating in and be part of a CYO football team."
The Plas, who live in Buckingham Township, want the rule "modernized to reflect the times" to allow girls to play football.
The petition backing that plea has garnered more than 31,000 signatures, including those from Doylestown-area people who know Caroline.
"I played with Caroline this year, and she is AMAZING! Let her keep doing what she loves!" writes Michael Cuozzo of Chalfont.
Caroline also is winning support from other women nationwide who've been in her shoes.
"Back in 1983, I proved to my junior high school that girls could not only play football, but that some of us could play first-string with the biggest, fastest, and strongest boys," writes Suzanne Krause, of Ocean Park, WA. "The following year and every year since, girls have been allowed to join the team."
The CYO told MyFoxPhilly that the decision to ban Caroline was based on its policy.
"There are policies in place governing CYO sports. CYO football is a full contact sport designated for boys. There has been some perceived ambiguity in the policy regarding this point. It is currently being reviewed and will be addressed moving forward to provide complete clarity," the station quotes Kenneth A. Gavin, Associate Director of Communications, as saying.
Gavin told Forbes much the same thing.
"The ruling is currently under review and no final decision has been made so it would be unfair to speculate regarding the eventual outcome," Forbes qutoes Gavin as writing. "We are currently seeking the advice of parents, pastors, coaches, and experts in the field of childhood sports with the ultimate goal of arriving at the most prudent decision that is fair to all those who wish to play CYO sports."