GLASSBORO – Outrage over an archaic, unwritten policy requiring athletes to cover up their sports bras has spurred Rowan University to get with the times and put it on paper — sports bras are shirts.
The Glassboro-based college was pummeled with criticism Friday over a longstanding verbal policy requiring all athletes to wear shirts during games and practices. Shirts had been required over sports bras, too.
Controversy kicked up after Rowan student and track team member Gina Capone posted to theodysseyonline.com, slamming Rowan’s ban on female athletes wearing sports bras without a shirt during training.
“We run in sports bras because we are confident, hard-working student athletes,” Capone wrote. “We do not run in a sports bra as a way to show off our bodies in attempts to distract men.”
The bra rule — a ban of shirtless practicing for athletes of all genders — has been a longstanding “verbal” policy that university spokesman Joe Cardona said is not in line with today’s practices.
“The roots of that policy is an attempt to teach all of our athletes there are certain standards,” Cardona said, noting the policy required athletes to wear shirts during competition and practice.
The shirt requirement was recently re-explained to athletics department staff and forwarded to athletes, many of whom were hearing it for the first time, according to a university statement.
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University President Ali Houshmand announced Friday that Rowan will loosen its policy to allow women to practice in sports bras without also wearing shirts, recognizing the NCAA’s declaration that the garments are sufficient coverings.
That updated policy will be written down, Cardona said.
While the university noted its verbal policy attempted to set standards, “it could be misunderstood and does not accommodate today’s training practices across sports,” Houshmand’s statement said.
“Rowan strongly affirms its commitment to ensuring that women are able to train and perform at the highest levels,” the president’s statement said.
Capone also wrote that the women’s cross country team is barred from practicing on the school’s track. Capone claims in her post that her team was told running in sports bras is “distracting to the football players on the field during the same time.”
The university said Capone’s claim about using the track is in error.
The university has a policy that one team at a time uses a practice facility. Cross country track is scheduled to practice at the stadium after the football team in the fall. Instead of waiting for a late practice time, the track coach opted for Glassboro High School’s track as an alternative, according to a university statement.
While teams may informally overlap on facilities, Rowan maintains, the school holds a one-at-a-time policy.
Capone, whom Rowan officials confirmed is a student at the college, told the Courier-Post she’s pleased women on her track team can run at practice in sports bras “without feeling as if they will be reprimanded or have negative things said about them.”
Changing the policy is a “step in the right direction,” said Capone. But she’s disappointed the track team must change practice locations around the football team’s schedule.
“The purpose of my article was not intended to make Rowan University look bad,” Capone explained.
“I wanted to shed light on the fact that the Athletics Department is being unfair. … I hope that this can raise awareness and give other women courage to stand up for what they believe in.”
Proper form when working out is important, but so is proper attire. Keleigh Nealon (@keleighnealon) has the story.
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