Caroline Pla Rallies for a Girl's Right to Play Football

Caroline Pla started playing football at age 5. She played Pop Warner and moved up the leagues as she grew up. 

But two years ago, the Pennsylvania Catholic Youth Program league she played for suddenly realized she was a girl and decided to ban the 11-year-old from the game. Her mother wrote, “CYO is one of the lone remaining organizations that discriminates against girls in football even though the ability of a girl to be able to participate and compete safely has been proven.” Her parents started a petition to stop the discrimination, and Pla’s story spread online. When Ellen DeGeneres added her name, the story went viral, and the Archbishop ordered the archdiocese to allow co-ed participation for the 2013 season.

However, the ruling was provisional, the Archbishop stated. It would be reviewed in future seasons. And in July 2014, the bishops ruled that Pla could no longer play. They also prohibited co-ed participation in wrestling and tackle rugby, stating that these contact sports were “incompatible” with their efforts to “teach Gospel values” because they involve “substantial and potentially immodest physical conduct.” 

So again, the Pla family is fighting the sexist ruling with another petition on They’re contesting the decision as an illegal Title IX violation and aiming to support girls around the country who want to play. 

In 2014, we saw inspiring stories of girls like Mo’ne Davis and Sam Gordon defying stereotypes and excelling on fields typically filled with boys. Becky Hammon joined the NBA, the Afghanistan Cycling Team began training for the Olympics. We probably heard less about the girls who are getting shut out, who are told they can’t play “just because.” A story like Pla’s is an important opportunity to come together and rally for equality.