Kymora Johnson is getting her turn in the spotlight.
The 10-year-old girl from Charlottesville, Virginia, joined her youth basketball team Saturday night on the hardwood of Madison Square Garden for the New York Liberty's WNBA game.
Most popular sports stories
Johnson's team was disqualified from a tournament earlier this month when officials with the local Amateur Athletic Union youth basketball program ruled the team of boys was not allowed to play with Johnson or other girls on the roster, the youth team of the Charlottesville Cavaliers said on their Facebook page.
"Everyone at this tournament knows these kids deserved to play," the team wrote Aug. 2. "As adults we know life isn't fair all the time but it was very touching to see these kids hold their heads high and stand up for what is right."
Liberty team officials stepped in and offered to make up for the team's disqualification by flying the Cavaliers to New York City to be introduced to Liberty fans and then play on the MSG court after the game.
"When our staff first heard about Kymora and the Charlottesville Cavaliers, we immediately thought about bringing the team to Madison Square Garden," Kristen Bernert, Liberty senior vice president for business and basketball operations, said in a statement. "The New York Liberty stands for inclusion, and strives to inspire young women to burn bright in everything they do."
The Charlottesville team was introduced before the game and received a standing ovation from the Liberty faithful. The Liberty tagged their Twitter feed "#girlpower."
Liberty players stood by Johnson and said she should have the same opportunity to play the game she loves.
"It's 2015. To be in a state where we have an organization not letting kids play because there's a girl on the team is crazy," Liberty forward Swin Cash said. "It's crazy to me. And I think that that we as parents, as adults, as the people who are the organizers, we have to take more responsibility in what we're instilling in our kids and what we're showing them with some of these crazy rules."
Before and after the game, Kymora wore a gray shirt that had "Girls don't sit on the bench" written in pink letters on the front. Most of the Liberty team (11 players, to be exact) stuck around to watch the game and take pictures afterward.
"When we got disqualified, they were saying it's not your fault. You did a good job. We can do it next year," Johnson said.
Liberty center Tina Charles said Johnson should be given the chance to play on a team and overcome adversity in a male dominated sport.
"It's sad because at this age group . . . I can understand if she was older, you worry about physicality of the game, but you just want to have fun. Go out there, the camaraderie of being in a team sport," Charles said.
"I grew up in New York," Charles said. "Every time I stepped on the court I was around guys. That's how I got better. Because of the physicality. Because of the challenge. I wanted to rise to the occasion. And Kymora wanted that opportunity and it was taken from her. So I was glad that the New York Liberty was able to give her this opportunity among the other players here, too."