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Breastfeeding moms barred from coaching volleyball tournament because of their babies

TODAY logo TODAY 5/16/2021 Alyssa Newcomb

Dixie Loveless made the eight hour road trip from Utah to Colorado to coach her U-14 volleyball team in a tournament, only to be turned away at the door with her 4-month-old baby, whom she breastfeeds.

When Loveless tried to check in at the Colorado Convention Center for the Crossroads Tournament on Saturday, she was reportedly told she couldn't bring her daughter McKinley inside the venue.

"They said I was not allowed in and I couldn’t pass that point with my baby and said if I tried to they would call the police to come and escort me out," Loveless told NBC News' Denver affiliate 9News.

Loveless said the organizers told her no spectators under the age of 16 were allowed inside the venue due to COVID-19, including nursing infants; however, she said the tournament never made it clear ahead of time that she wouldn't be able to bring McKinley. While it appears the regulation is specific to the tournament and does not stem from state or local COVID-19 guidance, a rep for Denver Mayor Michael Hancock told 9News they have no reason to believe the restriction violates city ordinance or law.

Instead of coaching in person, Loveless stood outside the venue and watched a livestream of the tournament, she told the outlet. While Loveless would have preferred to be inside, she said she needs to breastfeed her daughter every couple of hours, and being away from her simply wasn't an option.

"All of these girls are seeing this example you are setting — choose work or family," she told 9News. "You can’t be both. You can’t be a mom and have work."

"Now we are being discriminated against that we don’t get to do something everyone else can do just because we are nursing a baby," she added.

Another volleyball coach and new mom, Nikita Eby, also told 9News that she and her 2-month-old were forced to leave the venue on Mother's Day.

"There was no human decency, and it made me feel like a criminal because I was just trying to be a mother," Eby said.

Related: Ida Nelson says she expected more from her son's predominantly Black school.

The Colorado Crossroads Tournament did not immediately respond to a request for comment from TODAY. USA Volleyball, the governing body for the sport, issued a statement explaining that it did not play a role in the tournament's alleged restrictions.

"It has been brought to USA Volleyball’s attention that a club coach participating in the Colorado Crossroads tournament in Denver says she was prohibited from bringing her breastfeeding baby into the tournament," the statement read. "Colorado Crossroads is one qualifier event for the USA Volleyball Girls Junior National Championship. Colorado Crossroads is not operated or controlled by USA Volleyball and its jurisdiction over the event is limited. USA Volleyball has expressed its disagreement with this decision to the tournament director and is encouraging the tournament to reverse the regulation."

Both Loveless and Eby said they hope to see more accommodations made for breastfeeding moms in the future and are fighting for the tournament to change its policy.

"What a horrible example you are setting for our young woman," Loveless added.

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