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We’ve become accustomed in recent years to see plenty of pink in the month of October as it is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The top of skyscrapers downtown are lit up in pink, people are adorned with ribbons, and they’re having fundraising walks to benefit research for a cure. We even see it on the athletic field as the NFL is awash in pink signage in every stadium and players are covered in pink uniform accessories and sideline gear. Colleges football players have been doing it, too, so naturally the high school athletes have followed suit. One place where you’re not supposed to find pink is on the towels that the players wear on their waistband.
On Oct. 5, Guerin senior Andrew Rangel sported a pink towel as he had done in past Octobers knowing that he might be asked to remove it. During warm-ups prior to the game at Aurora Central Catholic, an official did ask him to do so, and he complied. A week later at home against St. Francis, he and some of his teammates and opponents broke out the pink towels again without issue.
“Everyone was kind of shocked,” Rangel said regarding the removal of the towel. “I’ve done it since I started high school. I told (the referee) that it was for breast cancer, but he said I still needed to take it off.”
Rule No. 1-5-3 (a,5,a) that governs illegal equipment states that a player is allowed to wear a white unmarked moisture absorbing towel on his belt. Socks, wrist bands and things of that nature may be any color. The only law regarding wrist bands limits their location to the wrist area. Its enforcement seems to be sketchy. The rule the IHSA has adopted comes from the National Federation of High Schools, and they’ve decided to keep those rules just to be consistent.
“It’s not our position to make exceptions to the rules,” said IHSA Assistant Executive Director Craig Anderson. “It’s up to our officials to enforce the rules, and we put out info to them as to how it should be handled. It’s not exclusive to pink towels. They make sure that tailbone, hip, knee pads, and all things regarding the uniform are looking the way they’re supposed to prior to the game. We feel more flexible with other items like socks and wristbands and don’t try to control that.”
Some may wonder what the big deal is about allowing the players to wear the pink towels because it doesn’t seem to interfere with the play and it’s to bring awareness to a cause important to many. If the IHSA allowed colored towels for one cause then they may have to allow all kinds of colors for any number of equally worthy causes so sticking to the rules just makes things simpler for everyone.
This cause became very important to Rangel and the Guerin community when then-Principal and assistant football coach Anthony Tinerella’s wife Amy was diagnosed with breast cancer. Rangel helped organize a special night during the basketball season where the team wore pink t-shirts for warm-ups and had pink wrist bands during the game in honor of support for Mrs. Tinerella. Although Tinerella returned to Marmion Academy to be an Assistant Headmaster for Administration, Rangel, the team, and the staff remain close to him.
“Everyone knows someone who has been affected by breast cancer,” said Guerin head coach Tony Pecoraro. “Andrew was just trying to show support. It was a good gesture. It was very touching when he put together that day for basketball last year. We’re all still very close with (the Tinerellas), and we’re all proud of her fight.”
This is just another situation where the powers that be live by the saying that “Rules are rules,” but, as is also often said, “Rules are meant to be broken.”
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