Posted by Matt Moore
Careful, ladies and gentlemen. This gets sticky. Sticky icky icky. Please watch your step, both in the post, and in the comments.
The New Orleans Hornets and Oklahoma City Thunder are two franchises that hold a public prayer before each game. They are the only two teams that observe such a practice. The prayer is evidently open to different representatives from the religious community. A Jewish rabbi has provided the opening prayer several times, but, as to be expected, the prayer is usually led by a representative of the Christian faith. It lasts a few minutes and then the Hornets get on to the rest of their holy procedures, like the Honey Bees dancing or fireworks or David West screaming expletives in question to why he wasn't fouled.
The question of public prayer is one that is debated daily in this country and has been for decades. It's also got very little to do with an NBA blog. Except for something Hornets blog Hornets Hype found and shared in a post from a particularly atheist author:
As such, (the NBA's) non-discrimination policy reads:via Hornets Pre-Game Prayer Violates NBA Rules and Good Sense | Hornets Hype.
Equal employment opportunity is a fundamental principle at the NBA. Accordingly, the NBA’s EEO Policy provides that all employment decisions will be based on merit and valid job qualifications and will be made without regard to race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, disability, alienage or citizenship status, ancestry, marital status, creed, genetic predisposition or carrier status, sexual orientation, veteran status, familial status, or any or status or characteristic protected by applicable federal, state or local law.
... So how is this relevant to the Hornets? Because the NBA owns the Hornets. Therefore, every single Hornets employee is an NBA employee.
For Christians whose beliefs are in-line with the pre-game prayer, it is an innocuous blessing. For those of opposing beliefs, it may be less so. And for those that believe in no higher power, ... the entire thing is a travesty. The point is not which side is “right.” The point is, if it is opposed by as many as a quarter of the people who care, it should be done away with, regardless of NBA rules. Why stir such strong sentiments when they are ultimately irrelevant to the product produced by the NBA?
Regardless, the NBA’s own anti-discrimination policy forbids the pre-game prayer. Similarly, if my private, non-religious employer decided to start the work day with a prayer, there is no doubt that it would violate the tenets of the EEO Act. It is harassment.
Now mixed in with that above quotes are some incendiary opinions about religion, which again, we'd like to stay as far away from as possible in an NBA blog. But his point regarding the policy brings up an interesting, albeit touchy subject. Now, the EEO does act in regards to hiring practices,and as such, as the Hornets are a private company, it's difficult to argue that the pre-game prayer affects their hiring of anyone in regards to their religion. But the practice of such a pre-game prayer does speak to the relationship between the team and the NBA.
The NBA owns the team at this moment in time, and the NBA would likely not submit to such a practice in its own offices. By carrying out this practice, a business which the NBA owns and operates is conducting a pre-game prayer that is always carried out by a religious official. That makes for some complicated relationships there.
This particular situation isn't going to change anyone's mind. After all, no one's going to go from believing prayer is good and right, or at least not harmful, to thinking it shouldn't be allowed, and certainly not vice-versa. But the question remains.
What's the NBA's policy on pre-game prayer?
(For more on this subject, check out Hornets 24-7's post on it by Joe Gerrity.)