A Black woman claims she was kicked off her college cheerleading team because of the way she styled her hair. According to the Kansas City Star, Ottawa University student Talyn Jefferson was let go of the team after she stood up to a coach who made some unnecessary comments about her braids.
On Jan. 6, Jefferson was reportedly asked to remove her bonnet during a cheerleading practice but refused to do so because she didn’t want to hit her teammates with her lengthy braids. Coach Casey Jamersy, the student says, subsequently launched a racist rant about her hair before completely giving her the boot.
According to a text message Jefferson sent to her friend, the coach claimed she was using her hair as an excuse to be disobedient, so she politely asked to end the conversation, insisting Jamersy didn’t understand Black hair. The cheerleading coach disagreed, attributing her comprehension to her years as a cosmetologist and roommate of a Black person. “She proceeds to tell me that my box braids are a hindrance to my performance, and they are not collegiate, and I never should have gotten them in the first place,” Jefferson’s text read.
The cheerleader later told the Star she was dismissed for defending herself. “I got kicked off because I was standing up for myself against microaggressive comments that the coach made toward me that made me and others very uncomfortable,” she said.
The university released a statement in their defense, explaining that Jefferson’s elimination from the team “had absolutely nothing to do with her hairstyle,” adding, “No student has ever been sanctioned or expelled for wearing box braids, bonnets or any other hairstyle.”
The response, however, didn’t meet Jefferson’s expectations. The cheerleader — who has since withdrawn from the school — criticized Ottawa University for allegedly twisting the narrative and failing to acknowledge the coach’s actions.
“Instead of the university addressing the fact that the comments were out of line and made me uncomfortable, and the coach should have apologized, their solution was to kick me off instead,” Jefferson said. “They claim I got kicked off because I defy authority, and I have anger issues, but like I’ve said, that is not true. I have no type of misconduct issues at that school.”
The incident is being investigated, per an Ottawa University spokesperson.