ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – On the phone banks at sports radio talk station 610 AM KNML, the lines were lighting up.
A lot of people were looking to talk about youth basketball organization New Mexico Select’s decision to bar a talented 10 year old girl from playing with her fourth grade boy’s club team at the group’s upcoming tournament.
One of those callers is at the center of the controversy.
Joseph Jaramillo is New Mexico Select’s executive director. Jaramillo declined to answer KRQE News 13’s questions either on camera or on the record Wednesday afternoon, saying the organization’s attorney had advised them against it.
But that restriction didn’t seem to stop Jaramillo from calling up sports talk radio to tell his organization’s side of the story.
“It’s never been personal,” Jaramillo said in his Wednesday on-air call with 610 AM KNML. “This specific little girl on this team is fantastic. We have no issue with any of that.”
Jaramillo says the rule only allowing boys to play on boy’s teams wasn’t enforced simply because of Jaelyn Bates.
“The Frey Basketball Academy is not the only club [with a girl on the team] that we’ve said no to,” Jaramillo said. “We’ve said no to all of them.”
NM Select’s rules for the Southwest Salsa Slam fall in line with AAU rules, although they’re not required to.
Jaramillo says even though the rule has been on the books for years, it hasn’t always been as strictly enforced or emphasized. Jaramillo cited a specific instance at last year’s tournament where a losing team tried to get the team that beat them disqualified because it had a girl on it. He also says teams have been turned away before in prior years when the organization’s noticed girls on boy’s teams.
“We play in a lot of tournaments and they have rules all over the place so we decide if we want to play in it,” Jaramillo said. “We were just educating people and saying, ‘Hey, make sure you understand the rules.’ “
Jaelyn’s family isn’t backing down. Their attorney Daymon Ely is still planning on filing for an injunction either Thursday or Friday.
“It didn’t have to go this route, they chose it,” said Barry Bates, Jaelyn’s father. “They know that they don’t adhere to their rules all the time and they chose to do it this time.”
While the fight continues to pick up national attention and heads to court, Jaelyn’s keeping her focus on another court. Her team is traveling to play in a tournament in Phoenix this coming weekend.
It’s a tournament that does allow girls to play on boy’s teams.
“We’re ready to get back to business,” Bates said.