The Supreme Court on Friday rejected a U.S. national’s claim that a ban on foreigners participating in the annual national sports festival violates the Constitution.

Douglas Shukert, a 46-year-old resident of Sendai working for Tohoku University, had sued Miyagi Prefecture for barring him from the ice hockey game of the 2001 national sports festival held in the prefecture simply because he was not Japanese.

In supporting earlier rulings by the district and high courts, presiding Justice Hiroshi Fukuda said the Constitution’s Article 14 that guarantees equal treatment under law does not deny reasonable discrimination, such as the ban Shukert suffered.

The lower courts had ruled that the ban cannot be considered unjust because the nationality restriction is reasonable, given the purposes of the national sports festival.

Japan has faced persistent criticism that it is unreasonable to ban foreigners from participating in the national sports festival.

Non-Japanese high school students who have been born and raised in Japan have been permitted to participate in the festival since 1981.