Sam Gordon, other Utah teen girls sue school districts to play football

Posted at 10:14 PM, Jun 27, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-28 15:26:25-04

SALT LAKE CITY - These Utah girls are tackling gender barriers.

Baylee Simmons, who will be a senior this fall at Riverton High School, started playing football this past Spring.

"I have a, like, a newfound toughness out on the field, like I can do anything," said Simmons.

After joining an all-girls tackle football league in Salt Lake City, Madelyn Calchera, who will be a Junior at Hillcrest High School, gained confidence.

"I played sports before but my body wasn’t really necessary to the team and then in football it's really helpful for when you’re, like, on the line and that’s a really good feeling," said Calchera.

Now they're pushing the boundaries again, demanding a chance to play football in high school.

"It would mean so much to me to be able to play for my school," said Simmons.

These teens, including 14-year-old Sam Gordon, and their parents, are suing three school districts at the Utah High School Activities Association, claiming it's a violation of Title IX to not allow girls the opportunity to play football.

Gordon went viral a few years ago when a video of her touchdowns hit YouTube.

Sam's father, Brent Gordon, said, "Schools have to offer the same number of athletic opportunities to girls as boys."

Gordon decided to look at legal avenues after the UHSAA said there wasn't enough demand to implement a girl's football program.

"The suggestion was go ahead and grow your girls league for ten or 15 years and then come back to us. Well, my daughter will be 30 years old by then. It doesn't help her or any of the other girls who want to play for their school now," said Gordon.

In response, the Granite School District, which is named along with Canyons and Jordan in the lawsuit, sent us this statement:

"The premise of the lawsuit seems off base. Title IX doesn’t dictate WHAT to offer, but simply works to ensure it is equitable. That is our mission in coordination with UHSAA. We already have a handful of female students participating in football across the district and if interest were to grow, we are certainly open to hosting officially sanctioned teams as appropriate in the future. However, our own internal surveys and current participation levels indicate that we are not even close to that type of interest at this point in time, no matter what this lawsuit presupposes. "

Canyons School District sent Fox 13 this statement:

“Canyons District will continue to review the complaint and discuss the issues included therein. Our high schools currently support student athletes, both girls and boys, as they compete in Utah High School Activity Association-sanctioned activities. We believe there are substantial opportunities for all our student athletes to excel on the playing field while also becoming college- and career-ready in the classroom.”

Jordan School District says they still haven't received the lawsuit and therefore have no comment.

Even if the opportunity to play high school football is a long shot for these girls, they're eager to pave the way for other girls who want the chance to play America's favorite sport.

"I’m not just doing this for me so I can play next year. I’m doing it for my little sister and all the girls who will be going into high school and who are just starting high school so they can play one day," said Simmons. "This is a start of something bigger."