Ala. Governor Steps In Over Varsity Team's 'Troubling' Forfeit

Kay Ivey wants answers on why time change request on Sabbath couldn't be accommodated
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 24, 2022 8:37 AM CST
Team Forfeits Big Game: 'It's Bigger Than Basketball'
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/taka4332)

It was the best season ever for the Oakwood Adventist Academy's varsity boy's basketball team in Huntsville, Ala., and they were excited to be heading to regional semifinals last weekend. That game never happened, though, and now the state's governor is intervening over what the team says was a forced forfeit over religious observances. WHNT reports that the matchup between Oakwood and its opponent was set to take place at 4:30pm local time, which would have been an acceptable game time on any other day of the week. This game, however, was scheduled before sundown on Saturday, and Adventists observe the Sabbath from sunset on Friday to sunset on Saturday.

The high school reached out to the Alabama High School Athletic Association to see if it could grab a later time—and two other teams agreed to make the swap to help out—but the AHSAA denied Oakwood's request, and so the team chose to forfeit instead. "We weren't asking for a change of stadium or venue or a change of a different day," Calvin Morton, the school's athletic director, tells CNN. "It was a simple two-to-three hour game change ... which we thought was a reasonable ask." Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey also thought it reasonable, and she told the AHSAA so in a pointed letter. In her message, Ivey asked a series of questions on how the denial to Oakwood's request had come to pass and who'd made the decision—and if it violated any AHSAA policies—calling what had transpired "troubling."

"Few things are more important to Alabamians than their faith," she wrote, asking for prompt answers to her inquiries. Her letter to the high school was a more laudatory one. "The idea that a team like Oakwood could be denied a chance to compete based on its faith ... is deeply concerning," she said in a letter to the school (see it in full at WAAY). "Please convey to your team members and their coaches how proud I am of them for sticking to their beliefs." Although the team chose to forfeit, the boys still traveled to the tourney to cheer on the teams that had offered to trade time slots with them, per WAFF. "There is a whole Facebook community ... saying how proud they are of us," Raynon Andrews, the team's senior captain, says. "That means a lot." He adds to WHNT: "It's bigger than basketball." The AHSAA hasn't yet commented. (More Alabama stories.)

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