By: Sruli Fruchter  | 

YU Clarifies Fans Can Attend Women’s Basketball Games After Team Was Told They Were Banned Due to ‘Orthodox Law’

Spectators will be allowed to attend YU’s women’s basketball team games, a YU spokesperson told The Commentator, one day after the women’s team was told that, due to “orthodox law,” fans could not attend their games.

On Monday, Nov. 1, Athletics Director Gregory Fox emailed Associate Athletics Director Carly Moss and Head Women Basketball Coach William Zatulskis that he had met with Rabbi Yosef Kalinsky, dean of men’s Undergraduate Torah Studies. “At this point,” Fox wrote, “we are still not allowed to have spectators at our women’s basketball games — the primary reason being orthodox law.” 

The concern likely arose from halachic considerations of women’s modesty, as team members can dress in shorts, sweatpants or jerseys. Women are permitted to play in skirts and long sleeves if they would like, according to YU’s student-athlete handbook

“Worst case,” Fox wrote, “I’ll try to convince [Rabbi Kalinsky] to allow parents to attend and [players] on each team can provide a pass list. But even with that, I’m not sure it will fly.” The email thread was forwarded by Zatulskis to basketball team players.

When the women’s basketball team resumed practice last year in November 2020, the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020, the team began holding practices and home games in the Max Stern Athletic Center (MSAC) on Wilf Campus. Last season, games did not have spectators because of COVID-19 safety. Before then, practices and home games took place in Baruch College, about 10 blocks from Beren Campus, where male and female spectators were allowed.

After The Commentator contacted the university, a spokesperson said, “We understand there has been some confusion regarding the location of the upcoming home games for our women's basketball team.” 

They said that while the team’s home games were traditionally held at “a facility near Beren Campus,” that location is temporarily unavailable due to COVID-19 restrictions. “We have secured an alternative facility for their upcoming home games,” the spokesperson added. “Fans are invited to attend and cheer them on." 

As of publication, the basketball team has not been notified by the university about this development.

According to the women’s basketball schedule, the team’s first game against Lehman College is a home game with no set location, and the men’s basketball schedule specifies that their games will take place at MSAC. The women’s volleyball team, which needs an indoor space for home games, also has MSAC designated on their schedule.

“Our team is very excited to hear that spectators are permitted again,” said Daniella Rothman (SCW ‘23), one of the team’s three captains, when told about the correction. 

“I’m very happy,” Yuval Nitzan (SSSB ‘23), another team captain, commented. “I wish we could play at YU with fans, but it’s not my decision. I appreciate everyone who made this decision, and I will invite my friends to watch us at our game this Sunday. I am very excited.”

Nitzan added, “I think that the best solution for both parties is our team to play at [MSAC] with only female fans. It is very important to us to play in our home court as we have been practicing here and we love playing in a gym that says our school name.”

Rothman agreed. “We would also love to play on our home court, since we have one,” she said. “There’s nothing like playing on a home court and being cheered on by YU fans, but [the allowance of fans] is a move in the right direction.”

Two weeks earlier, the women’s volleyball team faced a similar communication regarding dress after its tri-match on Sunday, Oct. 17 against Baruch College and St. Joseph’s College. 

The following day, one of the Athletics staff emailed the coaches that after a few players who were “dressed inappropriately” went into the Furman Dining Hall during the tri-match, the Athletics staff needed to meet with “a few key Rabbi administrators” to ensure that it does not happen again.

“When Joe [Bednarsh] got this arrangement approved for women’s volleyball and basketball to use Max Stern Athletic Center two years ago, there were a few stipulations that we needed to adhere to,” they wrote in her email. “One was that female student-athletes’ sports attire should be worn in the gym only.”

YU’s undergraduate student dress code for academic buildings requires women to wear knee-length dresses or skirts, along with tops that have sleeves and a modest neckline, while men must wear pants and a shirt. Neither of these rules is enforced on Wilf or Beren campus. 

The Athletics staff added in her email, “If one of our student-athletes is not dressed modestly in common areas (anything outside of the gym), we would be in danger of this agreement ending.”

Photo Caption: The YU Maccabees women’s basketball team played against Mount Saint Mary in February 2020.

Photo Credit: YU Athletics