Powerlifters rally to help girl at state championship who faced disqualification over hair beads

BRUCE, Miss. (WCBI) – On April 1st, a Bruce High School powerlifter was in danger of being disqualified from the state championship because of her hair.

“I was a little angry,” says junior Diamond Campbell. “I (felt) shame a little bit, I kind of felt humiliated, like I was being picked on in a way.”

They are not the emotions a high school athlete should feel during a state championship. But it’s how Campbell says she felt after what she thought was her first lift during the MHSAA Girls Class 1 competition.

“The head judge came up and she said, ‘She can’t wear the beads,'” Campbell says.

Campbell says her teammates and coaches worked frantically to try and get the beads out in time.

“‘You got to take them out or you can’t lift, they’re gonna disqualify you, they’re taking your first lift away,'” Campbell said, repeating the message from her coaches.

What happened next was one of those rare moments in sports that transcends the competition itself.

“Before I knew it, I had like eight different girls in my head and they were all taking (the beads) out,” Campbell says.

Girls from schools Campbell was competing against gathered around her to help take the beads out in time for her next lift. Girls like Jorja Roberson from East Union High School, who was going up against Campbell in the same weight class.

“We were just trying to give her an opportunity to still compete,” she says. “Because it’s not fair to her to not have that opportunity because of something so small.”

The rule preventing lifters from wearing certain types of headgear has been in place for years. But Bruce powerlifting coach Angie Owen says the itemized list is a new amendment that was just added.

“This year, they went in and they itemized things like bandanas, beads, hair clips, those kinds of things,” Owen says.

Campbell says she believes the rule unfairly singles out African Americans.

“The clips, the beads, that’s in our culture,” she says. “When they wrote the rules, they weren’t writing it for white people or other people, they were writing it for my people.”

Campbell says the actions of her fellow competitors lifted her mentally and emotionally

“They could have easily just let me sit there and have to do it by myself and probably miss my next lift because there were a lot of beads,” she says. “But they put everything aside and they helped me.”

Which put her in the right frame of mind for her next lift.

“I just used it as motivation to push me to get the weight so they couldn’t pick out any other things wrong with me other than my hair,” Campbell says.

Campbell would go on to record a personal best in the deadlift and finish fourth in her weight class (165 lbs.).

MHSAA Head Director Rickey Neaves told WCBI Tuesday that the rule banning beads is being revised and will be removed for the 2022-2023 season.

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