When Andrea Armstrong converted to Islam in June, she says she never intended for her most personal of decisions to cause such rancor. Last month, when the South Florida women's basketball team convened for a group photo, the senior forward told coach José Fernàndez she could no longer wear the Bulls' uniform and would instead play in a Muslim head scarf, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt. Fernàndez, she says, accused her of joining a cult and said she'd have to leave the team if she insisted on the religious clothing. Armstrong then quit the team, prompting the school to rescind her athletic scholarship. On Sept. 9, after she turned to the Council of American-Islamic Relations for help, USF reinstated her scholarship, and school officials said they'd help her petition the NCAA for a uniform waiver.
But USF's backpedaling did nothing to abate the hate emails and harassment directed at Armstrong, and last week she decided to leave the team for good. "I don't want this to cause further distraction," she said. "I am concerned this is dividing my team, school and community." Said Ahmed Bedier, a spokesman for the council, "Had Andrea been a Buddhist, Jew or even a Satan worshipper, she would not have sparked this kind of controversy." --Yi-Wyn Yen
CHRIS ZUPPA/ST. PETERSBURG TIMES (ARMSTRONG)