The boys basketball team at Beren Academy, an Orthodox Jewish day school in Houston, will have to forfeit its spot in the state semifinals because the scheduled game falls on a Friday night, ESPN reports.
The Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools (TAPPS), which organizes sports competitions for member schools, turned down Beren’s appeal to have the time of the game changed so that it would not fall on the Sabbath. The semifinal game against Dallas Covenant is scheduled for 9:00 pm this Friday. Shabbat begins at 6:09 pm in Fort Worth, TX, where the game would be played.
TAPPS director, Edd Burleson, told The New York Times, “When Beren’s joined [TAPPS] years ago, we advised them that the Sabbath would present them with a problem with the finals. In the past, TAPPS has held firmly to their rules because if schedules are changed for these schools, it’s hard for other schools. If we solve one problem, we create another problem.”
While Burleson’s warning to Beren seems legitimate, it is odd that an association who has mostly religious-affiliated schools as members would be so intolerant toward a specific religion.
Of course, sports scheduling conflicts with religious events are nothing new, and it certainly doesn’t affect only Jews. It seems that the High Holidays have made as many appearances in the baseball playoffs as the Yankees.
But when you really think about it, it’s strange that religion and sports mix like oil and water, since many people are fanatically observant of sporting events, faithfully rooting for a team and worshipping star players like gods.
Even in professional sports, leagues have adjusted schedules because they conflicted with religious holidays. Because Christmas fell on a Sunday last season, the NFL decided to move a majority of its games to the Saturday before. The Packers-Bears matchup was the only game played on Christmas, and it was even moved to Sunday night.
Granted, this was a minor adjustment and not necessarily one that was made because of religious consideration. It is the NFL’s general policy to make schedule changes if Christmas falls on a Sunday most so stadium and league employees don’t need to work on the holiday.
But TAPPS isn’t the NFL. There is not an obscene amount of money tied to the TAPPS tournament and there would have been no harm in moving the game up a few hours so that it could be finished before sundown. How can educators teach tolerance to students when they are being denied the same opportunities as others based on their religious beliefs?
If you want to support Beren’s boys basketball team, there is a petition to change the tournament schedule through the school’s website.