She Can Play Football–But What Happens Next?

Eleven-year-old Caroline Pla has been playing football since she was in kindergarten. But two games into her second season with the Catholic Youth Organization (CYO), the young athlete was banned from her team because she was a girl playing a full-contact sport.

With support from her team, though, Pla and her family started an online petition on asking Pla’s archdiocese to allow girls to play football. The petition gained over 100,000 signatures and national media attention. Now, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia has overturned the ban, and Pla can get back on the gridiron.

While lifting the ban has been hailed as a progressive move for the Catholic Church, it’s worth mentioning that, since the Archdiocese of Philadelphia receives federal funding, its programs are covered under Title IX. Thus CYO should have never kicked a girl off one of its football teams to begin with, and was liable for a lawsuit. As it is, Caroline Pla is currently the only female football player out of 46 programs and 2,500 participants in the Philadelphia CYO.

Pla was “screaming, jumping and laughing” when she heard that she would be allowed back on the team, and the athlete will surely continue to hold her own on the field. However, what happens when she ages out of CYO football and perhaps wants to break other barriers put up by the Catholic Church? While reproductive rights are surely the last thing on her mind right now, it’s important to remember that the Church has been barring women from more than just the right to play football. And the new pope, despite being described as being a “breath of fresh air” by some women’s religious groups, is just like in his predecessor in his very conservative views on reproductive rights. Officially, the Catholic Church forbids contraception (Pope Benedict made the Vatican’s first exception to the ban when he said condoms could be justified to prevent the spread of AIDs) and has condemned abortion.

We wish Caroline Pla good luck on the field, and hope that the Catholic Church continues to expand rights for women in all aspects of their lives. Maybe Pla will grow up to want to be a priest! Oh, sorry, that’s still forbidden.

Photo via Flickr user themalones under Creative Commons 2.0


  1. I rarely respond to blogs, but i make an exception here because my youngest daughter, currently age 39, was a respected football player in upper elementary school by the boys. She desperately wanted to be a part of a “real team” like the local Pop Warner team but I knew that her dad would not support that. Her elementary school barred her from playing tackle football with the boys that she played with on a daily basis. Since at that time she was athletic and taller than most of the boys (an girls) this was the one area that she shined. Unfortunately when she asked me to sue her elementary school I declined knowing that her father really wanted a little femme daughter.
    I post this because my daughter, adult though she is, still loves the film about a girl playing on the boys tackle football team and for all the girls today that want to play and should play. I regret that we, as parents in the 1980’s, could not support our daughter also living out her dream to “play tackle football with the boys” and still be valued as a feminine girl.

    Barbara B Wilson
    Age 67
    Valencia, Calif 91355

  2. Hi there! This blog post couldn’t be written any better! Looking at this post reminds me of my previous roommate! He constantly kept preaching about this. I am going to send this information to him. Pretty sure he will have a very good read. I appreciate you for sharing!

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