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Judge: Bowlers Tour Discriminated Over Man’s Pony Tail

January 27, 1990

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) _ The Amateur Bowlers Tour unlawfully discriminated against a Chippewa Indian by barring him from a tournament because of his long hair worn in a pony tail, a judge has ruled.

Ramsey County District Judge Roland Faricy on Friday ruled in favor of Joe Big Bear of St. Paul and turned down the tour’s appeal of a decision by the St. Paul Human Rights Commission.

In September, the commission said the tour discriminated against Big Bear on the basis of sex and awarded him $3,000 in damages. The commission also ordered the tour to pay $1,300 in costs incurred by the city in investigating and prosecuting Big Bear’s complaint.

Big Bear ran afoul of a rule that male bowlers cannot have hair below the bottom of the ″normal collar″ and cannot wear braids, ponytails, hair curlers, head bands or hats. The commission noted that there were no rules governing the length of the hair of female entrants.

The tour’s attorneys contended that it is not a ″public accommodation,″ in which the law forbids discrimination, because it is selective in admitting members. Faricy rejected the argument, noting that the competition excludes only very high-scoring bowlers from amateur status.

With the support of its co-sponsor Bud Light beer, the tour has paid more than $40 million in prizes to bowlers since 1977.

Questioning the tour’s argument that its grooming standards are necessary to attract sponsors, Faricy cited a Bud Light commercial in which two men are captured by an army of scantily clad Amazons. They discover they cannot leave but are told they will get an unlimited supply of Bud Light.

″If that level of bad taste, sexism and excess is acceptable to Bud Light,″ he wrote, ″perhaps the Amateur Bowlers Tour does not need to worry about establishing very high standards for its members.″

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