Governor Ivey demands answers from AHSAA after basketball team was forced to forfeit for religious reasons

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – Governor Kay Ivey has issued a demand for answers to the Alabama High School Athletics Association after a Huntsville high school basketball team was forced to forfeit a tournament game due to their observances nuns.

Oakwood Adventist Academy’s men’s basketball team had its best season in school history. The team won their sub-regional game against Skyline last week and would have made it to the regional semi-finals.

The match was scheduled for Saturday, February 19 at 4:30 p.m. However, the team was unable to play due to their religion. The Adventist faith observes the Sabbath from sunset Friday until sunset Saturday. The start time of the game was before sunset on Saturday.

“Few things are more important to Alabamians than their faith,” Governor Ivey said in a letter to AHSAA. “…I hope you will understand why I was most disturbed to read about Oakwood’s alleged treatment at the AHSAA basketball tournament and why this episode raises some very pressing questions, not only for me, but for the officials and citizens of our great state.”

The letter to AHSAA officials asked many questions, including:

  1. Is the public account of Oakwood’s treatment accurate?
  2. If so, how was this processing allowed to occur.
  3. Which AHSAA employees made this decision? Who was consulted for the decision? What discussions took place and what communications were exchanged before making the decision?
  4. Did the decision to deny religious accommodation violate any AHSAA policy or was it authorized?
  5. Did AHSAA officials know how the team’s treatment would be perceived by the team and coaches? If not, why wasn’t that a factor in the decision?
  6. Were AHSAA officials aware of how the teams’ treatment would be perceived by the Alabama taxpayers who fund AHSAA’s operation? If not, why wasn’t that a factor in the decision?
  7. How can we, as a state, ensure that this does not happen again?

The school contacted AHSAA to ask if they could move their game to a 7:30 p.m. time slot. Another pair of teams in the division were already scheduled to play at that time, but the two teams agreed to switch times.

Read Governor Ivey’s full letter to AHSAA here.

Ivey also reached out to the Oakwood Adventist varsity team and their coaches.

She expressed her solidarity with the team, saying: “The idea that a team like Oakwood could be denied a chance to compete because of their faith – without even most forms of accommodation – is deeply concerning. “

Ivey invited the team and their coaches to the Capitol to meet and hear about the team’s experience at the tournament.

“I will be able to work with others in the state government and the sporting community to ensure that a situation like this never happens again,” Ivey wrote in the letter to the team.

Read Governor Ivey’s letter to the Oakwood Adventist Academy varsity team here.

News 19 reached out to the Alabama High School Athletic Association last week about it. Communications director Ron Ingram said, “AHSAA has no comment.”


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