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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Jewish school in Sabbath basketball playoff kerfuffle

From Sports Illustrated (h/t Global Freezing):
DENVER (AP) -- State senators have taken up the cause of a Jewish boys basketball team whose playoff run may be halted because its players can't play on the Jewish Sabbath.

The Herzl/Rocky Mountain Hebrew Academy team could be headed for a regional championship on Saturday, March 8, if it wins one more game. But the Denver team's religious beliefs prohibit students from playing on the Jewish Sabbath between sundown Friday and sundown Saturday.

If Herzl/RMHA makes it to the regional championship and refuses to play a Saturday game, another school would be chosen to take its place, CHSAA commissioner Bill Reader said.

Earlier this month, the Colorado High School Activities Association, which governs sports and other high school activities, rejected the team's request for a schedule change.

At the end of morning debate in the state Senate on Wednesday, Majority Leader Ken Gordon, D-Denver, called on the CHSAA to be more flexible.

Senate President Peter Groff, D-Denver, said the CHSAA's decision was ironic because it has a rule barring games from being played on Sunday for religious reasons.

Sen. Tom Wiens, R-Sedalia, said there must be a way for the CHSAA to accommodate the team.

"It just seems like the bureaucracy has run amok here," Wiens said.

Bruce H. DeBoskey, mountain states regional director for the Anti-Defamation League, said the group was disappointed by CHSAA's decision.
More details in this article from CBS 4 Denver:
Reader said CHSAA can't accommodate everyone.

"We speak for 110,000 athletes and 340 member schools that all have different needs and desires. It's impossible for us to be all things for all people," he said.

"(Herzl/RMHA) joined in 2002 with the full understanding that sundown Friday to sundown Saturday is a prime time for high school athletics, and they voluntarily joined anyway."

Reader said the CHSAA board allowed the school to compete at the district level of playoffs if other schools agreed, which they did. He said late scheduling changes at the regional level would be more difficult, with teams having to travel to a rented facility in Sterling.
The school knew the rules when it joined the league. So what is the best solution?

As with all similar problems, the religious minority has the right to request accommodation - but not to demand it.

And when accommodation can be extended, appreciation must be shown enthusiastically.

In this case, I would recommend that should the Herzl school win the next game, that they try to privately arrange an unofficial game against the opponents they would have faced that Saturday - just for bragging rights.