A Sticky Situation
September 28, 2010 8:52 AM   Subscribe

My boyfriend is part of a competitive league for X sport. He has a sticky situation involving a physically disabled person that he would appreciate your advice on.

My boyfriend has been participating in recreational drop-in sessions for X sport for some time. The drop-ins welcome players of all ages and levels and take place once a week. The popularity of the drop-ins grew and grew, and the organizers decided to see if there was any interest in starting up a competitive league. The players would still participate in the regular drop-ins, as well as play competitively in organized teams on a different day of the week.

It turned out that there was a lot of interest. So the organizers put up a website to provide information about the league and to facilitate sign-ups. It was explicitly stated that players in this league would have to meet a minimum level of play. There were no guarantees that everyone who signed up would make it onto a team. The organizers selected some players to head each of the teams and placed the rest into a draft pool. Because the teams’ captains had played regularly with all the other players at the drop-ins, it was not necessary to hold tryouts. Perhaps that’s where the confusion arose.

One person who signed up, I’ll call him A, has a physical disability that makes him unable to run. X sport is very fast-paced and involves a lot of running. Unfortunately for A, he was not drafted onto any of the teams. When the teams were posted to the website, A became very upset and sent emails to the organizers asking why he had not been included. A also emailed my boyfriend, who is one of the captains. My boyfriend, trying to let A down gently, replied that there was a minimum level requirement to play in the league, but that he didn’t know for sure if this was why A wasn’t on a team. A thanked him and my boyfriend hoped A had understood.

A then sent my boyfriend another email, which was very friendly toward my boyfriend but scathing toward the organizers. A could not believe that he wasn’t good enough of a player to be drafted, and was certain that the league organizers were discriminating against him and had excluded him from the draft pool on purpose. A also stated that he had “some of his own ideas” for how to get into the league anyway. A also sent a round of very angry emails to the organizers. It appears that A may have used my boyfriend's name in the emails and mischaracterized his reply, as the organizers then got back to my boyfriend wondering what the hell he had told A to make A so angry.

My boyfriend is not sure what to do now. He feels terrible that A feels excluded or unwelcome, but doesn’t know what to say to make A feel better. He also feels somewhat responsible for A’s anger toward the organizers, and is worried that A will take actions to damage the league’s reputation or file a complaint against the league and the organizers. A may still come to the drop-ins (and my boyfriend hopes A will continue to play), so ignoring A isn’t a good option. What would you do in this situation?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (28 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
Ignoring A's emails that directly attack the organizers IS a good option - indeed it's the only option that does not escalate your boyfriend's (unwanted) involvement in this situation.
posted by muddgirl at 8:56 AM on September 28, 2010


My poppa always said, "If you get in a pissing contest, there is a good chance you get wet." I would stay out of it for now and let his original email stand. He can certainly forward a copy of it to the organizers if he feels he did nothing wrong.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:03 AM on September 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure how withholding the name of the sport in question is supposed to be helpful. But assuming that what you've told us is accurate -- that this is a sport that requires running, and A has a disability that makes him unable to run -- then A's behavior is inappropriate and your boyfriend has no responsibility towards him.

It's a shame if A is limited by his disability, but that's not your boyfriend's fault, and as he didn't make the teams or invent the sport or require A to participate in it, he doesn't owe A anything. I'd just stay out of it if I were him.
posted by JohnMarston at 9:03 AM on September 28, 2010


If I were your boyfriend: absolutely nothing. Maybe forward the email response he sent on to the organizers, in case that hasn't been settled, but other than that, it's very much out of his hands and at this point, none of his business. This is the organizers' mess to handle.
posted by brainmouse at 9:04 AM on September 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


He feels terrible that A feels excluded or unwelcome, but doesn’t know what to say to make A feel better.
While your boyfriend feels bad about the whole situation, really all he can do is stay out of it. He can't fix the situation for A (from what you've said, no one can), and I doubt he can make him feel better, either, without joining in on some organizer-bashing that he obviously doesn't want to do.

He also feels somewhat responsible for A’s anger toward the organizers, and is worried that A will take actions to damage the league’s reputation or file a complaint against the league and the organizers.
Why does he feel responsible for A's anger? I think A is going to be angry about this situation no matter what. And it's really up to the organizers to worry about their reputation or a complaint - if anything, he could discuss his concerns about this to the organizers, but at this point, he's said all he can say to A, and trying to convince him NOT to take a negative course of action might just escalate his anger more.

A may still come to the drop-ins (and my boyfriend hopes A will continue to play), so ignoring A isn’t a good option.
Your boyfriend should just continue doing what he's done all along - be a sympathetic ear, but no more. If A comes to the drop-ins, fine. Luckily, the league organizers have to deal with him at that point, and your boyfriend can just act friendly and stay out of it.
posted by coupdefoudre at 9:06 AM on September 28, 2010


Nthing forward any email communication to the organizers and ignore.
posted by dozo at 9:06 AM on September 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, A's behavior is inappropriate. Me, I would love to play softball, but I have absolutely no arm strength or coordination, and my shoulders dislocate easily. But I'm not sending nasty emails to organizations demanding that I be allowed to play.
posted by Melismata at 9:10 AM on September 28, 2010


He feels terrible that A feels excluded or unwelcome, but doesn’t know what to say to make A feel better.

He is not responsible for making A feel better.

He is not responsible for A's anger, as A is being entirely unreasonable, based on what you've wrote. You can't exactly play football, for example, with others who aren't in a wheelchair if you yourself are in a wheelchair. Hell, that could be dangerous to those running around, let alone being a severe disadvantage to the team.

He should send a copy of his reply to the organizers, so that they can see and judge for themselves about his reply. Then he should have a beer and console himself that he did no wrong.
posted by nomadicink at 9:16 AM on September 28, 2010


I would stop sending separate emails and just address this calmly and maturely in an open manner with one Dear A, Dear Organisers email. Basically, kill 3rd party reporting of what your boyfriend said so that everyone is clear what his position is.

That position is that a competitive league necessarily has a minimum level of play, and that this year, determining who met that criteria was decided by team captains using an all-members draft pick pool. He regrets that A was not drafted, and would like the organisation to consider a different team picking mechanism next year, but hopes that A will continue to bring his enthusiasm, energy and love of X Sport to the regular drop-in sessions this season.

Sincerely,
Etc.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:17 AM on September 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Was it explicit beforehand what the physical standards are for being allowed in the competitive league? And was there a procedure for verifying that players met those standards?

I agree that your bf should leave this to the organizers, but if person A decides he wants to bring an ADA suit against the league or something, those will be questions that are relevant.

For the future, it seems like the league should lay out explicitly "we have drop-in recreational play where all are welcome, and we have a separate competitive league where players must [fulfill x standards] in order to participate". It might be worth the league talking to a lawyer about how to lay that out and whether this means they need to hold actual tryouts to verify that players meet the standards. It would probably be worth talking to a lawyer anyway to figure out how the league can protect itself from liability if someone gets hurt, etc., and the ADA stuff could be just one facet of that.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:21 AM on September 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


First of all, if I were your boyfriend, I probably wouldn't have gotten involved - and if I did, I wouldn't get involved any further.

For some reason you withheld the name of the sport - but I can tell you that I have an amputee uncle who played softball very well. He just wheeled to the bases - usually faster than the overweight/older players on the team. He also played basketball - but that was with a whole disabled team and I can see how that would be difficult for someone in a wheelchair to play.

So, there were no try-outs? Has anyone even seen him play?
Did your boyfriend explain about the strange drafting thing to him?
posted by KogeLiz at 9:24 AM on September 28, 2010


Your boyfriend should defer any further communication to the organizers, unless your boyfriend was specifically involved in the decision of who made it to the draft and who didn't.

(Not that this answers the question, but just my own experience: I play roller derby, a sport which has a definite minimum skill level that must be met before you are allowed to play. In the future, your league MUST have tryouts. There must be a definitive line - if you land on this side of the line, you are in the pool, if you land on that side of the line, sorry, but you aren't eligible. A may not realize he does not meet the minimum skills necessary to play your sport (it happens). Having a tryout and a minimum skill line to cross will show him, in black and white, whether he does or does not meet the requirements. It also removes any chance that the pool was created by favoritism.
posted by Lucinda at 9:30 AM on September 28, 2010 [6 favorites]


You might think that I'm living in Lalaland, but if I were your boyfriend, I'd honestly consider drafting A onto my team.

Okay, I can see that it wouldn't help your chances of winning a championship, and A would have to spend a fair amount of time on the bench, but it's a recereational league afterall, and I've always learned a great deal the times that I've been around a disabled person who was determined to doing something that seemed beyond their capabilities.

And as far as being team mates with a guy who seems a little unreasonable: he just wants to play and is frustrated at the things he can't do and is excluded from. If your boyfriend gives him a chance, I'd expect your boyfriend wouldn't find him particularly hard to deal with.
posted by surenoproblem at 9:32 AM on September 28, 2010 [6 favorites]


You have a competitive league where the players were chosen by writing their names down, and having the organizers or captains (who were chosen by the organisers) decide who was good enough based on what they believe they remember from casual play? This was destined to fail.

If I could, I would go back and rechoose the teams based on *actual tryouts*. Is that feasible? It sounds like this was recent, and that the competitive games haven't really started up yet.
posted by jeather at 9:49 AM on September 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm with Surenoproblem. As this is for recreational purposes, the kind thing to do here is include A. He might seem angry and unreasonable, but from his point of view, he's righting for his right to inclusion in something which is supposed to be a bit of fun. It's hard to see that as being wrong.
posted by greenish at 9:53 AM on September 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


You might think that I'm living in Lalaland, but if I were your boyfriend, I'd honestly consider drafting A onto my team.

This is the right answer. If it was a kids' league you were talking about, this would have been the answer everyone gave.
posted by padraigin at 10:12 AM on September 28, 2010


If X sport is a contact sport, allowing someone on the playing field who has not passed minimum skill requirements is a danger to him/herself AND OTHERS.
posted by Lucinda at 10:17 AM on September 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


If it was a kids' league you were talking about, this would have been the answer everyone gave.

But it's not a kids' league, it's a competitive adult league and explicitly stated as such, with it being noted that a certain minimum standard of ability would be needed for the competitive league.
posted by nomadicink at 10:17 AM on September 28, 2010 [5 favorites]


He shouldn't put A on his team because he feels bad. He should forward his email to A to all of the organizers, and then he should stay out of it. A is trying to use your boyfriend.

If A shows up to a drop in, boyfriend can be friendly, but if A starts trying to bring your boyfriend into the drafted/not drafted issue then your boyfriend should say that he would prefer that that matter stay between A and whoever else it's appropriate to involve.
posted by mrs. taters at 10:31 AM on September 28, 2010


From the OP:
I apologize if my omission of the name of the sport was a problem. It's a very new sport to this country and I didn't want to make my question too easily identifiable by the relatively small community of players.

I appreciate the suggestions for my boyfriend to include A on his team, but my boyfriend feels it would not be possible. I should have been clearer that the league is meant to be competitive, not recreational. The higher-skilled players wanted to be able to play a faster, more physical game, which they had been unable to do at the drop-ins. If A was to be included on my boyfriend's team, the players (including those on the opposing teams) might feel obliged to slow down and hold back. My boyfriend is not comfortable making a decision that might affect the games for everyone. There are also some safety concerns, as someone mentioned upthread.

I think I agree with those who believe it's best for my boyfriend to stay out of it and remain impartial. I definitely agree that skipping tryouts was a big mistake. Unfortunately it's a bit late to do anything about it this year as the games have already begun. I'll pass the suggestion on to my boyfriend to pass on to the organizers for next year.

Thank you all.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:16 AM on September 28, 2010


Thanks for the clarifying response. I was aligning with surenoproblem in the "include A on bf's team," but as there is a recreational, all are welcome league and then the competitive league, then A is not being left out. If A can play better than the organizers think, then A will evince this in the recreational league, and if the competitive league is truly competitive, then there will likely be openings due to injury, other inability, and so on.

As far as this being a new sport? I thought 53-man Squamish was already well known.
posted by beelzbubba at 11:35 AM on September 28, 2010


Most big cities have leagues for people who have varying levels of disabilities. Although it obviously depends on the sport (full-tackle football is pretty much out of the question), you'd be surprised what's out there.

Perhaps you could gently guide A toward an X league for people who cannot run.
posted by schmod at 11:41 AM on September 28, 2010


If you are in the US (which I gather from your update you may not be), justifications like "they don't want to have to hold back" for why they decided to exclude the disabled guy without a tryout and without having formal standards -- or awesome separate-but-equal suggestions like "but you can go play in the disabled league next door" -- may not fly. It depends whether the league is subject to ADA (I'm not sure if they would be). I am sure they have all the best intentions in the world, seriously - if you're in the US this could be a legal issue, grounds for a lawsuit. They should be careful in what they say, and they should think about talking to a lawyer before responding to the guy further.
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:01 PM on September 28, 2010


It depends whether the league is subject to ADA (I'm not sure if they would be). I am sure they have all the best intentions in the world, seriously - if you're in the US this could be a legal issue, grounds for a lawsuit.

Do you have any basis for proposing that the ADA would apply here? I'm not a laywer and have no prior experience with the ADA, but aside from the fact that it seems ridiculous on its face that the law could prohibit a private sports league from discriminating on the basis of sporting ability, the information on the ADA web site reads to me like it would not be relevant in this situation.
posted by JohnMarston at 1:50 PM on September 28, 2010


If in the U.S.,
here is a good read concerning people with disabilities and recreational activities.

Of course, no one knows if he can actually play because there weren't any try-outs.
Don't underestimate the handicapped!
posted by KogeLiz at 2:05 PM on September 28, 2010


One person who signed up, I’ll call him A, has a physical disability that makes him unable to run. X sport is very fast-paced and involves a lot of running.
I think that this statement makes it pretty clear that A is not physically capable of playing in this league. Not that handicapped people can't compete just fine in certain arenas, but this doesn't appear to be one of them.
posted by coupdefoudre at 2:13 PM on September 28, 2010


Immediately insist that your boyfriend refrain from responding to any more emails from A. As off-color as this is going to sound, the behavior from A seems like lawsuit-mongering to me -- which is troubling, because as maddening as it is to be someone who has a disability and always having to fight against ableism, if the sport you are referring to is a contact sport, then it is not a bad thing to say that the individual would be in danger should he be put on the field.

That being said, I agree with the people above who have advised your boyfriend to insist on real tryouts -- let the guy show his stuff, and if it were me, I would do some triage on the situation by interfacing with a representative from one of the sports leagues that are specifically for people with disabilities, and have that person come to watch A try out. If A is skilled, great! Add him to the team. If you're still worried about his safety, have the representative from the other league talk to him and recruit him.
posted by patronuscharms at 2:16 PM on September 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Do you have any basis for proposing that the ADA would apply here?

No, and the poster may not even be in the US. I'm just saying: err on the side of caution and find out, since ADA applies in some situations where one might think it would not.

For example, Casey Martin successfully sued the PGA tour under the ADA, arguing that the tour (the golf organizing body itself) counted as a "public accommodation" and thus should make a reasonable accommodation for his disability (a rules change to allow him to use a golf cart). Does a local sport league count as a "public accommodation" under ADA? Maybe not, but I am no lawyer, and I wouldn't want to bet on the outcome of such a question without talking to a lawyer.
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:38 PM on September 28, 2010


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