SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Five years after Sam Gordon’s video of her football talents playing against boys won her an invitation to see the Super Bowl, she is a high school freshman and among those claiming three Utah school districts and the Utah High School Activities Association have not done enough to provide girls with equal opportunities to play the sport.
Gordon and her father, Brent Gordon, are among the plaintiffs who have filed a federal lawsuit against the school districts and the association in a push for the creation of girls football programs,
She was in youth leagues and her father runs a tackle girls football league that has boosted the number of its players from 50 three years ago to 200.
“There’s an importance attached to playing for your school,” he said. “Being able to have that opportunity to play and represent your school and to try to win a state championship or region championship, it has meaning. It has real value, and these girls don’t have the same opportunities as boys.”
Sam is confident in her abilities, but said she would be worried for her safety playing on a high school boys football team.
“I just wouldn’t be able to compete,” said Gordon, who stands at 4-foot-11 (1.5 meters) and weighs about 100 pounds (45 kilograms).
The Utah High School Activities Association allows girls to play high school football. But while more than 9,000 boys played high school football in Utah last year, only 17 girls played, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations.
Sam Gordon has been promoting a girls-only football league at her school and 87 girls signed a survey saying they would love to play tackle football.
“A lot of people are super excited about it,” she said. “I know a couple of people have said girls shouldn’t be playing football, but most of it’s been very positive.”
The lawsuit was filed in June. A pretrial hearing is scheduled for next month.
Among the districts sued was Granite Schools.
Spokesman Ben Horseley said he was comfortable that the district complies with federal equal opportunity laws.
“The process for determining sports offerings,” he said, “is based on interest and based on what has been sanctioned by the” Utah High School Activities Association.