Suspended prep basketball player Maori Davenport has been reinstated by the Alabama High School Athletic Association after receiving an outpouring of support from celebrities like Kobe Bryant and Billie Jean King when she was ruled ineligible for mistakenly violating the state’s rules on amateurism.
Davenport, a senior at Charles Henderson in Troy, Alabama had been ruled ineligible by of Steve Savarese, the executive director of the AHSAA, after she mistakenly received an $857.20 check from USA Basketball, which has since been repaid. The check was sent mistakenly, and USA Basketball had attempted to correct the clerical error.
A Pike County Circuit Judge granted an emergency motion, allowing Davenport to play in tonight’s home game.
‘Maori is BACK!!!!!’ read the Charles Henderson High School Facebook page on Friday morning.
‘Thank you, God,’ Tara Davenport, Maori’s mother, wrote in a text message to AL.com. ‘Our baby girls is back on the court! Her happy place.’
Earlier on Friday, Davenport’s parents filed a lawsuit against the AHSAA and its director in hopes of clearing her return to the hardwood.
Davenport, a senior at Charles Henderson in Troy, Alabama had been ruled ineligible by of Steve Savarese, the executive director of the AHSAA, after she mistakenly received an $857.20 check from USA Basketball, which has since been repaid. She has committed to Rutgers
Davenport apparently was set to make her return to the hardwood on Friday evening
Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant weighed in on Twitter on Davenport’s behalf
Tennis great Billie Jean King made the point that the clerical error was not Davenport’s fault
USA Basketball gave Davenport the check for ‘lost wages’ after she played for its Under-18 team in a tournament last summer, inadvertently running afoul of the Alabama High School Athletic Association’s amateur rule. According to ESPN, the AHSAA prohibits payments over $250.
USA Basketball contacted the relevant parties to explain the error after Davenport had cashed the check. She has since returned the money and appealed the decision, which was upheld twice before apparently being overturned on Friday.
WHY WAS DAVENPORT RULED INELIGIBLE?
Maori Davenport is a senior at Charles Henderson High School in Alabama who has committed to playing collegiately at Rutgers.
She also travels to play for USA Basketball’s Under-18 team, for which she is given a travel stipend.
It was that stipend that led to her being ruled ineligible by the Alabama High School Athletic Association:
- USA Basketball gave Davenport a $857.20 check for ‘lost wages’ after she played for its Under-18 team in a tournament last summer, inadvertently running afoul of the AHSAA’s amateur rule
- The AHSAA does not permit payments of over $250
- USA Basketball contacted the relevant parties to explain the error after Davenport had mistakenly cashed the check
- She has since returned the money and appealed the decision, which has been upheld twice
- On Friday, the Charles Henderson Facebook page announced: ‘Maori is BACK!!!’
Davenport addressed Alabama’s Republican and Democratic caucuses Tuesday about her situation and several lawmakers urged state high school officials to reinstate her.
The 6-foot-4 Davenport told The Associated Press while she and her parents visited the Alabama Statehouse that she didn’t believe she did anything wrong.
‘I hope to play again this year, but if I don’t get to play again, I just want them to help this not happen to any other student-athlete in Alabama,’ said Davenport, who has signed to play college basketball at Rutgers.
She received an outpouring of support from around the country, including tennis legend Billie Jean King, Kobe Bryant, the WNBA, Golden State Warriors center Demarcus Cousins, and Rutgers coach Vivian Stringer.
‘This is maddening,’ King tweeted. ‘To force Maori Davenport to miss her senior year of high school basketball because of a mistake that wasn’t even her fault is nonsensical. Do the right thing, @AHSAA_hoops, and let her play.’
The WNBA, Davenport’s potential future employer, also weighed in: ‘The WNBA urges the Alabama High School Athletic Association to reinstate Maori Davenport. Let her play the rest of her senior season instead of being penalized for an honest mistake made by others.’
Bryant amade Davenport’s case on Twitter: ‘This #MaoriDavenport situation is just about the most ridiculous thing I’ve heard in youth basketball. Let her play!’
And Cousins, also an Alabama native, demanded that the AHSAA change its decision.
‘What the Alabama High School Athletic Association has done to Maori Davenport is wrong on so many levels that I don’t know where to start,’ he tweeted. ‘I know what this feels like because I was treated like s*** by them too. Being a kid from Alabama, I’m with Maori Davenport. Fix this now!’
Cousins was declared ineligible by the AHSAA after he was dismissed from his high school team for disciplinary reasons and attempted to transfer to another school. Eventually he went on to the University of Kentucky and the NBA, where he became an All-Star.
‘It just makes me feel like the world has my back in this situation, so I’m not wrong,’ Davenport said prior to the decision being reversed.
The WNBA, Davenport’s potential future employer, also weighed in
ESPN’s Jay Bilas – a former Duke player and current attorney – has directed several attacks at the AHSAA over the Davenport situation. He’s a frequent critic of rules regarding amateurism
USA Basketball reported the payment a few months later and Davenport’s family repaid the money.
Her mother, Tara Davenport, is a middle school coach who also assists with the high school team. Tara Davenport said ‘the sad part about it’ is that adults made the mistake and her daughter was the one being punished for it.
AHSAA director Steve Savarese took significant criticism before apparently reversing his decision
‘I thought because it was USA that it wouldn’t have gotten to this point because USA admitted their mistake,’ Tara Davenport said. ‘Her dad and I sent the money back ASAP, but unfortunately that didn’t matter either.’
The Davenports were notified of the error on November 26, reported it to the AHSAA on November 27 and repaid the money the following day, according to Charles Henderson Principal Brock Kelley.
‘My school has respectfully proceeded through the steps of the appeal process, but we have been met with a ‘rules are rules mindset’ throughout,’ Kelley said in a statement Tuesday. ‘I understand rules and believe in the fundamental aspects of rules. However, in this case, this is beyond the basketball court, beyond the rule book, and beyond this basketball season.
‘This case is about character. It’s about integrity. It’s about doing the right thing and correcting a mistake when it’s is realized. The AHSAA never knew anything about the check until the Davenports reported it to them. The Davenports reported it to AHSAA and sent the money back within 48 hours of realizing Maori could not accept the check.’
Alabama native DeMarcus Cousins, the Warriors center, said he’s been in Davenport’s shoes
Two other high school players from other states also received checks from USA Basketball.
Notre Dame recruit Anaya Peoples of Illinois remained eligible after repaying the money at about the same time as Davenport, USA Basketball spokesman Craig Miller said.
Aijha Blackwell of Missouri has left her private school. Miller said state high school athletic officials have indicated to USA Basketball that the University of Missouri signee will be able to play once she is ruled eligible at another school under transfer rules and repays the money.
A spokesman for the Missouri State High School Activities Association said he could not comment on students’ eligibility, but said the organization has a similar amateur rule to Alabama.