High School Runner's Gesture To God Gets Team Disqualified

Derrick Hayes, left, and his 4×100 teammates were disqualified for a finger gesture — YouTube

Columbus (Texas) High Mighty Cardinals track runner, Derrick Hayes, recently had something to give thanks for. As the anchor of his team’s  4×100-meter relay squad, he crossed the finished line in record time.  After his win, he pointed to the sky, signifying that he was giving thanks to God. But it was this act of faith gesture that got his team disqualified.  Once officials at the Columbus meet determined that Hayes had violated the excessive celebration rules, the entire 4×100-meter squad was disqualified and effectively barred from the state championships. The team will not get another chance to qualify for the meet.

According to Houston’s CBS affiliate, KHOU:

“It was a reaction,” father KC Hayes said. “I mean you’re brought up your whole life that God gives you good things, you’re blessed.”

Columbus ISD Superintendent Robert O’Connor said the team had won the race by seven yards. It was their fastest race of the year.

Though O’Connor cannot say why the student pointed, he says it was against the rules that govern high school sports. The rules state there can be no excessive act of celebration, which includes raising the hands.

“I don’t think that the situation was technically a terrible scenario as far as his action, but the action did violate the context of the rule,” Supt. O’Connor said.

But critics, including the runner’s father, see it as a violation of religious freedom. Some of them have even complained to the state, which does not appear to be budging.

“You cross a finish line and you’ve accomplished a goal and within seconds it’s gone,” KC Hayes said. “To see four kids, you know, what does that tell them about the rest of their lives? You’re going to do what’s right, work extra hard, and have it ripped away from you?”

Critics of the ruling say that it violates the right to freedom of religious expression.


What’s your opinion? Should the gesture deemed an “excessive act of celebration”?

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  • MommieDearest

    Cosign London, Angel and Sunshine. This is political correctness run amok… *smh*

  • The adjective that stands out to me is, “excessive.” Raising your finger next to your ear and pointing up doesn’t constitute, in my opinion, excessive. They just needed an excuse to pushing this man and subsequently the team for being a Christian. So typical in this day and age.

    • victoria

      I actually think it looks bad when a SCHOOL SUPERINTENDENT uses the word excessive in this case. By definition, this act doesnt constitute excessive. He is in the teaching profession; therefore, using the proper word is key. And yes, I agree, it’s b/c the runner is a Christian that this is happening. If he was wearing the rainbow colors, I’m pretty certain, things would’ve been different.

    • Pushing = punishing. LOL.

    • Kam

      If he was making the sign of the cross, or doing something like holding his hands up in prayer I might agree with you, but I’ve never heard of raising a finger upwards to be a widespread Christian gesture. Also the article never statees that the boy himself did it in reference to Christianity. The article states:

      “As he was crossing the finish line, Derrick Hayes pointed up to the sky. His father believes he was giving thanks in a gesture to God.
      “It was a reaction,” father KC Hayes said. “I mean you’re brought up your whole life that God gives you good things, you’re blessed.”

      “His father believes…” is what is say. What the heck? Believes? You’d think the dad would know for sure since it’s his son. And the son doesn’t want to talk about it. For all we know he could have just been doing the “We’re number 1” gesture.

  • Dalilli

    Wow! Talk about an overreaction! There are always exceptions to rules, this in my opinion should have been one of those times.These kids worked so hard to get to the state championships…The State Championships!! How devastating to have that taken away because of a quiet gesture that I’d wager a majority of the spectators missed. Unbelievable!

  • It’s hard to say definitively without seeing a video (sidenote: in this day and age of smartphones, no one was recording this race?!) but raising your finger to ear level does not seem like excessive celebration to me.

    • Kam

      I agree. Also there is no evidence that he was disqualified for specifically for his beliefs, and I’ve never heard of a finger pointing to the sky being a specifically Christian gesture. With no video and the runner himself being unwilling to talk about the incident, it seems like people are just basing their opinions hearsay. If he did raise his arms and the rules say you can’t raise your arms, well then the disqualification was within the rules although they do seem a bit totalitarian. They might have put these rules in place for a reason though.

    • YP

      This is a sport so there should be someway to challenge the ruling as excessive. I don’t think the call was about religion at all. Their coach/school is just putting this out there to get attention. We see this in pro sports all the time, where football players get excessive celebration calls for dancing on the field. The call might be wrong, because it doesn’t sound like what he did was excessive, but it wasn’t about his religious beliefs.

  • thetruth

    Liberalism strikes again!