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Lancaster County middle school girl banned from playing football

COATESVILLE, Pa. — A Lancaster County high school football coach is fighting for his daughter to be allowed to play football at a CYO program, after the Archdiocese of Philadelphia told her she couldn’t. Now the family is making moves so that all girls will have the opportunity to play in the future.

Though a picture at the Choi family home captures a cute cheerleader, Brooke Choi has always liked to play more physical sports for as long as she can remember.

“Times have changed since that picture,” Brooke said. “You will not see me in pigtails or even a ponytail. Nor a cheerleading outfit.”

Instead, a football uniform. Just like her dad, who happens to be the head football coach at Pequea Valley High School.

“She’s tough,” Mike Choi, Brooke’s father, said. “I wouldn’t want to go against her if I was someone on the other side. In anything. I don’t care if we’re playing cards or football, she’s going to compete with ya.”

She already played for an independent league for the past four years, so Mike was excited when it came time to sign his seventh grade daughter up to play football at Pope John Paul II Middle School, run by Catholic Youth Organization.

“When we got to the registration, the selection of gender stopped us,” Mike said. “Because of the fact that Brooke is a girl.”

And though Brooke’s hopes of making it on the field before the end of the season are starting to drop, her confidence has only climbed.

“I’m bigger than all of the boys,” Brooke said. “I’m stronger than all of the boys. And I really think I could be a beast on this team and even against the other teams I think I could come out and do so good. I’m just so excited if I could get out on the field.”

Even though Brooke is trying to play for the CYO team her school is a part of,  they’re not the ones who have any say in the matter. In fact, Brooke’s family said they’ve received plenty of support from the school community. So FOX43 asked the Archdiocese of Philadelphia why she can’t play.

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia sent FOX43 the following statement:

“Information regarding our contact sports policy was shared with this family and there have been no additional inquiries. That policy, which governs contact sports at the CYO level, was adopted as common policy by all Catholic bishops in the state of Pennsylvania in 2014. Following adoption, the policy was distributed and publicized broadly.”

FOX43 then asked what that policy is. They sent us this page-long policy which states, in part:

“Preparation for Christian adulthood likewise involves the development and encouragement of appropriate, dignified and respectful forms of contact between male and female students. The [Arch]Diocese therefore believes that it is incompatible with its religious mission and with its effort to teach Gospel values to condone competitions between young men and women in sports that involve substantial and potentially immodest physical contact.”

Read the full Archdiocese of Philadelphia policy below:

Mike said immodest contact has never happened before, and the decision should be their family’s to make. He won’t stop fighting, even if it means going to court until she can play.

“Football is a great game,” Mike said. “It has so many life lessons to teach and so to see my daughter, not have that opportunity to learn those life lessons with her other teammates is heartbreaking. It shouldn’t be about whether you’re male or female at this point. it should be about opportunity.”

“I’m just a girl that wants to play football,” Brooke said. “And it’s just, they’re not letting me. It’s not okay.”