Flag football officially became a sanctioned sport this year by the Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA). And this past weekend saw the first AHSAA State Championship Flag Football game between Hewitt-Trussville High School and Smiths Station High School, a double-overtime victory for Hewitt-Trussville with a thrilling finish.
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The loss stung for Smiths Station coach Megan Larsen, but that was just the beginning of her disappointment when she was alerted to a Facebook post by freelance sports journalist Bill Lumpkin III, who covered the game for AL.com from Protective Stadium in Birmingham where it was played. The since-deleted post included a photo from the game with the caption, “Why does covering girls flag football make you think of lingerie football and pillow fights.”
“At a time when self-image and body-image are so important, for someone to speak about them in that way, regarding them as a lingerie pillow fight absolutely disgusts me,” Larsen told News3. “It made me angry to think that any of my girls would be looked at in that way while they are out trying to play a sport. It makes me sick to my stomach knowing that he was standing on the sidelines.”
Smiths Station Principal Brad Cook echoed that sentiment, saying that the comment undermines what the female athletes are trying to accomplish on the field.
“It definitely tarnished what they have worked so hard to get to and that moment,” said Cook. “To really show what they are all about and what type of athletes they are, and the character they have. For him to make that statement was deeply hurtful for the girls and how hard they have worked all year.
“It definitely made my skin crawl, talking about my kids here. And to compare them to lingerie and football. I think that was a disturbing comparison about kids.”
According to News3, Al.com’s Senior Director for Content Izzy Gould apologized to school officials and parents who reached out.
“We received an email alerting us about the post in question. We have addressed this internally and will seek to work with other freelance reporters for the remainder of the playoffs,” Gould told News 3 in a statement.
Lumpkin, who is the son of Bill Lumpkin Jr., the longtime sports editor of the Birmingham Post-Herald, has not commented publicly about the post. Along with its removal from Facebook, his Twitterfeed has also been deactivated, although it’s unclear when that happened.
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Larsen told News3 that she hopes to never see Lumpkin anywhere near one of their games again as they try to build the high school sport and its legitimacy.
“I think the Alabama High School Association has done a great job this season making our sport this new sport so exciting and so fun and so important for the girls,” said Larsen. “For this man to say, it was like a pillow fight is very insulting to what they are doing. For me, I would never like to see him on any sideline of any Alabama High School Athletic Association event ever again.”
At the moment, Lumpkin’s byline remains on AL.com’s coverage of the AHSAA’s Flag Football State Championship.