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‘Men Only’: Retirement community bans experienced female player from softball league

By Harry Samler and Lindsey Basye

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    HOSCHTON, Georgia (WGCL) — When 70-year-old Linda Evans steps up to the plate, the players on the field prepare themselves. Evans has been playing softball since she was a teen. With each pitch, her bat connects to the ball with authority.

None of the players question her ability. League coach and former University of Georgia baseball player John Calhoun says there’s no question, “She can play.”

The retired special education teacher and her husband moved from Snellville to Del Webb’s The Village at Deaton Creek 3 years ago. The 55 and older retirement community in Hoschton promotes itself as an active adult community with luxury amenities in the foothills of the North Georgia Mountains.

Residents can play tennis, bocce, even croquet, but when it comes to softball, there is one league, seven teams, and all the players are men as old as 80- and 90-years-old. Evans could practice with the team, but is not allowed to play in league games. After CBS46 started asking questions, the Deaton Creek’s softball commissioner banned Evans from practice as well.

“I want to do something I love to do, and I’ve always done it,” Evans said.

The commissioner tells CBS46′s Better Call Harry the league’s charter says it’s a “men only” league and has been for 25 seasons. According to the community newsletter though, the league is advertised as a “Slo Pitch Softball Club” and has no mention of a gender requirement. The ownership bylaws say “membership in any Chartered Club must be open to all bona fide members of the association without discrimination as to race, religion, color, sex, ethnic culture or national heritage.”

The commissioner also claims he took a poll and the majority of the league’s players do not want women to play. He says many of the players will quit if women are permitted to play.

“I can understand her wanting to play this league, and I’d be happy to have her on my team, it’s a matter of what the board decides,” Coach Calhoun said.

“I’m an adult woman and I don’t need a man to tell me if it’s not safe enough for me,” Evans said.

Steve Wolf is an anti-discrimination attorney at Legare, Attwood & Wolfe. He says although this may not qualify as a civil rights violation, the bylaws say the same opportunities must be provided to men and women.

“They do have an exception, it seems, that allows for men’s leagues and women’s leagues, but only if genders have the same opportunities to pursue their interest,” Wolf explained.

Evans says they tried starting a women’s league and a co-ed league, but there wasn’t enough interest.

CBS46 contacted Deaton Creek’s HOA president who says the board has not made a final decision. He says they are working to find a solution that is “acceptable to everyone.” Evan’s will make her case to the league later this week.

“I wish they would give it a try, one woman,” Evans said.

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