A 12-year-old boy who quit his youth football team after he was banned from wearing pink football gloves at a game has reportedly returned to play after his coach offered him a formal apology.
According to The Press of Atlantic City, Julian Connerton of Egg Harbor City, N.J., had decided to leave his team after his head coach, Paul Burgan, banned him from wearing a pair of pink gloves during a weekend game.
But this was unacceptable to Connerton, who had worn the gloves not as a fashion statement, but in support of his mother who is battling breast cancer.
"I love my mom more than I love football," Connerton told NBC News in the aftermath of his renouncement, adding that he would not play with the team again until he got an apology from his coach.
Wearing pink as a gesture of support for breast cancer awareness is common in the world of professional sports. As New York Daily News notes:
Athletes wearing pink to raise awareness of breast cancer is a gesture that is supported at the highest level of sports. Masters champion Bubba Watson plays with a pink driver, MLB players use pink bats on Mother’s Day and NFL teams traditionally wear pink in October, which is breast cancer awareness month.
"I just wanted to support my mom -- not just her but everyone with breast cancer," Connerton said.
After his touching tribute to his mother was covered by The Press of Atlantic City on Tuesday, Connerton's story spread like wildfire.
The public backlash was immediate.
As Yahoo! notes, "some people called for Burgan to be fired or face sensitivity training... [while] others demanded Julian receive an apology."
At the time of the furore, Louis Barrios of the Egg Harbor City Crusaders Youth Athletic League Association had defended Burgan, insisting that it had been a miscommunication stemming from "a uniform situation."
Nevertheless, within hours of the incident blowing up on the Internet, Burgan reportedly met with Connerton and his family and apologized for what he said was a "misunderstanding."
Burgan told The Press of Atlantic City that he had simply forgotten why the boy wanted to wear the gloves and would "of course" have let him had he remembered.
"He did something 100 percent right. He stood up for his mother. That's what you want every kid to do," Burgan told the Press. "In the end you don't want to hurt any one of the kids' feelings. At the time I didn't know I hurt his feelings. I feel bad. You don't want this to happen to anyone's mother."
During the dispute, Connerton's mom, Mayra Cruz-Connerton, who recently underwent a double mastectomy, had called on the youth football league to suspend Burgan for the season.
Connerton now says he's just excited to be back on the field.
"I just want to play football again. I miss it," he said.
And his pink gloves?
Burgan said that the boy has been encouraged the wear them for the entire season.