The playing rules of the National Federation of State High School Athletic Assns. are very clear. Equally obvious is the guidance those rules provide for the officials who call the penalties and fouls for the games.
"What are the standards which the referee must use in determining whether a player will be permitted to wear certain equipment?" asks the federation's rule book on basketball. It then lists three criteria: Nothing is allowed on elbows, hands, fingers, wrists or forearms that might be dangerous to other players; nothing is allowed that would give players a competitive advantage, and the equipment used must be appropriate.
Exceptions can be made on religious and medical grounds. In these cases, the coach of the team is required to present a letter from the California Interscholastic Federation allowing the items to be worn.
Valley Torah High School in North Hollywood has done exactly that. It has a letter from California Interscholastic Federation Commissioner Dean Crowley allowing its basketball players to wear small skullcaps known as yarmulkes. Orthodox Jews are required to always wear them as a constant recognition of God.
We are appalled to learn, however, that this simple religious practice has caused nothing but grief for the Torah High School players. One referee delayed a game and tried to force players to remove their caps. Another insisted that players use tape to keep the caps on, rather than pins or clips.
The first official was just out of line, period, and ought to apologize to the school. The second was out of line, and foolish to boot. The tape would be rendered useless by perspiration, \o7 increasing \f7 the possibility of injury to other players who might slip on the caps when they fall to the floor. That official ought to apologize, and then tape his mouth shut.
For his part, Crowley is also seeking clarification of the rules, at the state and national level, to prevent further confusion.
We note here, however, that prescription eyeglass frames can be more dangerous to the wearer and to other players than pins or clips, as anyone who has ever received stitches from a collision with someone wearing glasses can attest.
But this also involves anti-Semitism. One opposing player, for example, made references to Adolf Hitler, and there have been other instances of harassment from opponents and spectators. We wonder how they would feel about being ostracized for \o7 their \f7 religious beliefs. Perhaps then, they would have sense enough to show respect, rather than ridicule.