House Republican caucus passes resolution urging AHSAA reinstatement of Davenport

Published 11:06 am Thursday, January 10, 2019

The Alabama House Republican Caucus is fighting to have CHHS standout basketball player Maori Davenport’s eligibility reinstated by the Alabama High School Athletic Association.

The 77-member caucus unanimously approved a resolution urging that the association reverse its decision.

Davenport was ruled ineligible on December 4, 2018, after she accepted a checked from USA Basketball for her participation on the gold-winning Under-18 team in Mexico City over the summer. Davenport led the team in rebounds (42) and blocks (16) through six games. She had the second-highest field goal percentage on the team at .640 (18-for-28).

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In August, USA Basketball mistakenly sent Davenport a stipend check of $857.20> Davenport was originally told that the check was not sent in error and that it would not affect her eligibility.

Three months later, USA Basketball realized the mistake and contacted Davenport, CHHS and the AHSAA about what happened. USA Basketball took full responsibility for the mistake. Davenport mailed a check for the same amount to USA Basketball within 48 hours. The AHSAA ruled that Davenport had broken the association’s amateur rule and declared her ineligible for the remainder of her senior season and the team forfeited every game she had already played in that year.

Davenport visited members of the Alabama Legislature Tuesday to make her case for reinstatement – or at the very least that no other student athlete go through a situation like this again.

“After Maori Davenport appeared before our Caucus and very eloquently explained her situation, the 77 Republican members of the Alabama House stand ready to help her regain her eligibility in any way that we can,” said House Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter (R – Rainsville). “Without exception, our legislators urge the AHSAA to immediately reinstate this impressive young woman who simply wanted to represent our country on an international level.”

The resolution was sponsored by State Rep. Wes Allen (R – Troy), who has championed Davenport’s cause since the AHSAA decision and arranged for her appearance at the Alabama State House during the Legislature’s organizational session.

“I am proud to stand alongside Maori Davenport as we work to rectify a situation that should have never occurred,” Allen said. “Rather than being treated with the callous disregard shown by the AHSAA, young athletes like Maori should be encouraged, supported, and praised.”

Johnny Hardin, president of the AHSAA Central Board of Control, released a statement Monday defending Steve Savarese, executive director of the AHSAA, and the ruling handed down by the director.

“Steve Savarese, as AHSAA Executive Director, made the eligibility ruling based upon the plain language of the Amateur Rule,” Hardin said. “As Executive Director, Mr. Savarese does not have the authority to change a rule,” Hardin said. “Rather, as Executive Director, his job is to apply the rules as written. To be clear, this ruling was affirmed by the Central Board of Control and as Executive Director, Mr. Savarese does not have the authority to change or reverse a ruling made by the Central Board.”

The case has gained statewide and even national attention. Davenport appeared on Good Morning America to talk about the situation and NBA stars Kobe Bryant and Chris Paul have tweeted out their support of Davenport.

The full text of the caucus resolution, which will be sent to Savarese, follows:

“Whereas the Alabama House Republican Caucus holds a 77 – 28 supermajority in the House of Representatives; and,

“Whereas the Republican supermajority maintains the overwhelming and prevailing opinion among members of the Alabama House; and,

“Whereas Charles Henderson High School basketball standout Maori Davenport’s athletic skills and talents earned her a spot on the Team USA roster and a gold medal at the 2018 FIBA Americas U18 Championship; and,

“Whereas the USA Basketball program regularly sends a stipend to players who compete for its teams but failed to first check with governing sports officials in Alabama before compensating Davenport; and,

“Whereas the 18-year-old Davenport responsibly self-reported the oversight and immediately returned the stipend as soon as it was discovered the check sent to her by USA Basketball exceeded the allowed limit in Alabama; and,

“Whereas the Alabama High School Athletic Association ruled Davenport ineligible to play this season in spite of her sincere and timely efforts to rectify a situation that was no fault of her own; and,

“Whereas the AHSAA stubbornly refuses to demonstrate empathy and reconsider its decision despite a state and national outcry on Davenport’s behalf by advocates and supporters of amateur athletics; now, therefore, be it

“Resolved, that we, the members of the Alabama House Republican Caucus, hereby urge the Alabama High School Athletic Association and its director, Steve Savarese, to reinstate Maori Davenport’s amateur eligibility without delay and take significant steps to ensure that no other student athlete is subject to such callous, unfair, and unjust treatment in future situations of similar circumstance should they arise.”