Milwaukee-area girls basketball team works to shatter stereotypes

Posted at 5:00 PM, Jan 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-31 13:32:52-05

MILWAUKEE — In Milwaukee, a special team is using the game of basketball to change stereotypes the world has assigned to them and their religion.

"Just the fact that people think girls can't play, that's already a lot. But on top of that we have the religion," said Heba, freshman star.

For the young women of Salam Stars, basketball has become more than a game.

"Right when you see us, you know we are Muslim. It's not like the guys playing, you don't know their Muslim until you ask around," said Esraa, junior star.

It's an opportunity to break down stereotypes on and off the court.

"It's powerful to be a Muslim athlete. We're not trying to hide, we're trying to show people who we are," said Ersaa.

"You walk in and they think we can't play. They always underestimate us. You can see on the teams face when they are warming up, they are laughing and joking. They sometimes point at us. Then when it comes to the game they are just like wow, they can actually play," said Jumana, senior star.

The hijab may be a symbol of modesty, but in no way does it constrain an athlete's competitiveness.

Milwaukee-area girls basketball team works to shatter stereotypes_SOT

"Sometimes it's the refs. They will be calling fouls or they won't be calling the other teams fouls but we don't let that bring us down because we still win that game. We still prove everyone wrong," says Heba.

Helping the stars shine is Head Coach Kassidi Macak.

Growing up, right down the street from Salam school, the Saint Francis alum never once saw her team as less than.

"I think that's a lot of the reason so many of them have responded so well to me. I didn't care what they were wearing, I didn't say oh you have long sleeves on I guess you can't play as hard. No, you are going to come out here and I am expecting a lot out of you guys. This isn't a club sport or just for fun, we are trying to do something here," said Macak, head coach entering her fourth season with the stars.

That something is what every team is after, a state championship.

"Win a state championship, honestly. I really think it's possible to, our elementary school is pretty big, like 600 kids. If I can get all those girls to start coming up with the basics and foundation of the game. We could be really, really good," said Macak.

It's clear that the individuals on this court have won a battle that some don't have the courage to fight.

"I know some girls are Muslims and they are afraid to put the scarf on and play at the same time. I would tell them to not let anyone make you afraid. Don't let anyone stop you from going or reaching where you want to be. Be who you are," said Jumana.

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