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Local high school transfer able to play basketball after PIAA overturns WPIAL ruling

ALLEGHENY COUNTY, Pa. — The parents of Robert “RJ” Sledge Jr. moved their son from Bishop Canevin in East Carnegie to Imani Christian Academy in East Hills for multiple reasons, including discrimination, finances and lack of inclusion — but basketball was not a factor in their decision process.

So they were shocked when the Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletics League deemed RJ ineligible to play, saying the move was motivated by athletics.

Ultimately they decided to fight and brought it to the attention of the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association, who overturned the ruling, allowing RJ to play for the regular season and postseason.

“It feels good, but I just imagine, what about the other people who don’t have the means to do what we did?” said Robert Sledge Sr., RJ’s father.

Sledge’s mother, Kayla Reynolds, said outside of basketball, her son had a hard time fitting in at school, so he transferred to Imani Christian Academy.

“How do you feel as a grown man to take away something that a kid loves or is passionate about just because he doesn’t want to stay in that atmosphere?” said Reynolds.

Imani is a small, predominately African American Christian academy. It is one of WPIAL’s smallest schools, but its basketball program has a big profile.

“There were situations where he was being called the N-word by people on the team, and it made him feel uncomfortable,” said Robert Sledge Sr.

RJ’s parents said their son was called racial slurs and missed major milestones like homecoming while at Bishop Canevin, but at Imani, he enjoys school.

“High school is supposed to be fun. You’re not supposed to just be at home not doing anything. At Bishop Canevin, I used to have to fight him to go to school. Now I don’t wake him up; he gets up. He is already up; his alarm is on,” explained Reynolds.

RJ’s basketball coach at Bishop Canevin, Gino Palmosina, backed up their claims and provided a statement that said in part:

“There were racial tensions and issues going on in and out of the classroom. The school brought in a counselor … RJ truly never felt comfortable.”

The former Bishop Canevin coach went on to say that he knew Sledge was leaving in March.

The school’s administration denies all allegations of discrimination, though, and Principal Michael Joyce said the following in a statement:

“The family never raised any allegations of discrimination while the student was enrolled at Bishop Canevin or during the open PIAA hearing on Monday. Bishop Canevin takes allegations like this very seriously.”

The family said they are waiting to receive RJ’s championship ring so they can finally put this behind them.

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