The New Jersey girl who sued her school in a bid to play on the boys basketball team has been expelled, her family learning the news as they were meeting the New York Liberty at Madison Square Garden training center Wednesday night.
Sydney Phillips, a seventh-grader with WNBA dreams, was invited to try out with the pro women's basketball team after they learned she wasn't being allowed to play hoops with the boys at her school.
Sydney, her sister Katie and friend Grace got to meet Liberty players and Olympic medalist Teresa Weatherspoon.
"It is all about girls having the opportunity," Weatherspoon said.
For Sydney, who wasn't told about the expulsion until later, the tour was a night to remember.
"They told me they play with boys all the time," Sydney said.
Sydney had no opportunity to play at St. Theresa's School in Kenilworth. There aren't enough girls to form a girls team, and the school wouldn't let her play with boys.
When Sydney’s dad Scott Phillips asked why his daughter couldn’t play on the boys team, he says he was told, “Boys play with boys, girls play with girls.”
“It has to start being more equal. We have to come with the times,” Scott Phillips has told NBC 4.
Sydney's family sued for a chance to play on the boys' team, arguing she was being discriminated against because she is a girl and the school, which is part of the Newark Archdiocese, does not have a specific rule prohibiting girls from playing on boys teams.
But a judge said the family could not prove that their daughter had a legally established right to play basketball with the boys.
The family was appealing the judge's Jan. 5 ruling. They said they're not satisfied with the school's offer to find her another team.
"I'm bummed I couldn't play," Sydney told NBC 4 New York Wednesday. "I'm better than them."
Knicks legend Herb Williams complimented Sydney on her game at the MSG Training Center in Tarrytown, and her night was made. But just as quickly, the family's spirit was crushed: her father, Scott Phillips, got word from the family's attorney during the tour that both his daughters were expelled from the school.
"I was baptized here, I got married here, and this is what the church does?" said Phillips. "These girls did nothing wrong. "The church should be ashamed."
The Archdiocese of Newark said in a statement Thursday that parents and guardians of every student at St. Theresa School received a handbook at the beginning of the year that states, "If a parent implicates St. Theresa School in a legal matter, or names St. Theresa School as a defendant in a civil matter, the parent/guardian will be requested to remove their children immediately from the school."
According to the Archdiocese, Phillips agreed in writing to the terms of the handbook on Aug. 30.