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Grooming Code For Athletes Raises Concern In Cumberland County

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FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — What do dread locks and corn rows have to do with high school football? Cumberland County Schools athletics director says some hair styles get in the way of a proper helmet fit.

A new policy prohibits corn rows, braids, facial hair and so-called skull caps. While it does not appear the rule is being strictly enforced, some parents are calling the policy prejudiced.

A parent e-mailed WRAL saying, "I feel this is targeting a single group of students, mainly the African-American players. I am not an African-American parent. I can see something is really wrong here."

County athletics director Fred McDaniel says the policy applies to all students, no matter their race or sex.

"What we look at is safety issues as far as athletes are concerned. Safety is the most important thing," he said. "When you have these types of haircuts-- corn rows, the dread locks, the long hair white kids have under helmets, and things like that -- you don't get a good fit on a helmet."

McDaniel also believes certain haircuts promote a negative image.

"A lot of our kids are trying to embrace the players they see in the NFL, the NBA, and, quite frankly, we don't like the behavior we see at that level and we want to teach our kids what they are supposed to look like," he said.

Eight out of the 10 high school athletics directors in Cumberland County approved the code.

McDaniel says the idea was first proposed by his predecessor, who happens to be African-American.