BELLEVILLE, Ill. (KMOV.com) -- A Metro East rugby team finds itself in the middle of a controversy: the team is losing one of its star players - after being told they can't have women play on the team. 

The president of the Rowdies Rugby Club in Belleville said everyone on his team, man or woman, is family—so when Grace Hovde was told she couldn’t play in this weekend’s match with the rest of the club, they were frustrated.

“When you personally attack one of my family members it makes me a little mad, and she deserves to play no matter where she goes and who’s she's playing with,” Robert Massey said. 

The Rowdies Rugby Club is considered a men’s rugby team - but last spring, the team started welcoming female players to practice and eventually play in games when the pandemic put a pause on existing clubs in the St. Louis area.

USA rugby told the team’s union that Hovde or any other women in the club cannot play because of a USA rugby policy that prohibits women from playing on a men’s team and prohibits men from playing on a women’s team.

Yet, until now, Hovde had been registered with USA rugby as a player on the team.

Emily milesi, women’s rugby player

“There are a lot of areas, especially in the United States, where women’s rugby is still a growing program, and you might not have a team to play, so to discriminate and bar a woman from playing a sport that they love and that they’ve grown up with and that they’re passionate about, but the only opportunities they have is to play with men…is limiting women’s rugby,” Emily Milesi said. She's a rugby player. 

There is a petition circulating to get USA rugby to let Hovde and other female rugby players like her to play on men’s teams. 

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