• The AHSAA said Oakwood had agreed to follow the rules of the association and participate in all playoff games without petition or forfeit.
    • Oakwood Academy knew that playoff games were usually held on a Friday or Saturday, and that a “specific discussion” was held on the matter, according to the AHSAA statement.
    • AHSAA said it encouraged Oakwood to participate in the association’s legislative process and submit a proposal for a rule change, but that Oakwood chose to file a lawsuit instead.

06 May 2022 | The Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA) released a statement in response to the lawsuit Oakwood Adventist Academy, located in Alabama, U.S., filed against them for religious discrimination on May 5, 2022.

“We are disappointed that Oakwood Adventist Academy has sued the AHSAA. Oakwood’s membership in the AHSAA is 100 percent voluntary,” said the AHSAA in a statement released by Jim Williams, an attorney with Melton, Espy & Williams P.C., which is representing the association, reported AL.com.

Oakwood Adventist Academy filed a lawsuit earlier in the week that claimed its religious rights were violated when it had to forfeit an AHSAA basketball playoff game this February due to its religious observance of a Saturday Sabbath and the AHSAA would not approve a time slot switch that Oakwood had already coordinated with the other involved teams.

The AHSAA statement said Oakwood Academy knew that playoff games were usually held on a Friday or Saturday, and that a “specific discussion” was held on the matter, with Oakwood Academy acknowledging in writing that they were “expected to participate in all scheduled playoff games without petition or forfeit,” echoing an earlier stance AHSAA Executive Director Alvin Briggs made in his response to Alabama Governor Kay Ivey’s questioning of the situation.

The academy’s request to join the AHSAA was granted with the understanding that Oakwood agreed “to participate in all championship play without petition or forfeit,” said the statement.

According to the statement, the Regional Championship basketball schedule had been posted on the AHSAA website for six months before the February 19, 2022, game, but Oakwood waited until Feb. 16, 2022, only three days before the game, to raise concerns.

“Absolute chaos would ensue if from now on any of the 25 championship schedules can change just days before a game at the request of one team,” said the statement.

However, Oakwood Academy reported it had already made arrangements with the other teams involved in postseason play to switch time slots and all the teams had already agreed to a swap, prior to Oakwood Academy’s request of AHSAA.

The statement also said that “Oakwood was requesting preferential treatment over all of the other AHSAA member schools and the hundreds of student-athletes who abide by set championship schedules.”

In Oakwood Academy’s lawsuit available through the WHNT News site, Oakwood Academy noted the AHSAA prohibits scheduling games on Sundays due to the “religious practices of many Alabamians” and that “the prohibition on Sunday contests is a religious accommodation.”

In its statement, AHSAA said it encouraged Oakwood to participate in the association’s legislative process and submit a proposal for a rule change, but that Oakwood chose to file a lawsuit instead.

“The AHSAA is still hopeful this matter can be resolved without expensive and time-consuming litigation,” said the statement.

In Oakwood Academy’s lawsuit, the AHSAA appears to threaten the academy with fines and exclusion from the association in a Feb. 22, 2022, message, saying that to “declare a varsity sport in the championship program but fail to participate is a violation, and a monetary fine will be assessed to your school” and “may result in your school not being reclassified.”

The complete AHSAA statement can be read below:

We are disappointed that Oakwood Adventist Academy has sued the AHSAA.

Oakwood’s membership in the AHSAA is 100 percent voluntary. When Oakwood applied for membership, there was a very specific discussion concerning the fact that playoff games were usually on Friday and Saturday. Knowing this, Oakwood acknowledged in writing that they were “expected to participate in all scheduled playoff games without petition or forfeit” and their request to join the AHSAA was granted with the understanding Oakwood “agrees to participate in all championship play without petition or forfeit.”

The Regional Championship basketball schedule, including possible game days and times, was posted on the AHSAA website on July 28, 2021, which was six (6) months before the February 19, 2022, game. Therefore, Oakwood had known for six months that the game could be at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, February 19, 2022. Yet, Oakwood waited until Wednesday, February 16, 2022, just three days before the game, to voice any concerns. AHSAA offers 13 championship programs for boys and 12 championship programs for girls. Schedules are set months in advance so that student-athletes, member schools, families, venues, spectators, fans, and vendors may plan accordingly. Absolute chaos would ensue if from now on any of the 25 championship schedules can change just days before a game at the request of one team.

Oakwood was requesting preferential treatment over all of the other AHSAA member schools and the hundreds of student-athletes who abide by set championship schedules. This, after Oakwood put in writing they would not do so.

AHSAA is a voluntary association of member schools that make the rules. AHSAA encouraged Oakwood to participate in the AHSAA legislative process and submit a proposal for a rule change dealing with this issue. Unfortunately, Oakwood has instead chosen to file this lawsuit. The AHSAA is still hopeful this matter can be resolved without expensive and time-consuming litigation.


(Photo: The AHSAA released a statement on May 5, 2022, in response to Oakwood Adventist Academy’s lawsuit against them, saying Oakwood had agreed to follow the rules of the association and participate in all playoff games without petition or forfeit, echoing an earlier statement AHSAA Executive Director Alvin Briggs, seen here, made to Alabama Governor Kay Ivey on Feb. 24, 2022. Photo via UNA National Alumni Association Facebook page.)

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