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Last week, as NCAA Tournament action got underway, I wrote two stories about why the timing of this year’s games is challenging for Muslim players, as it was last year.

The 2024 men’s NCAA Tournament overlaps completely with Ramadan, the Islamic holy month during which many Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset each day. Last year, the two events only partially overlapped. (The start of Ramadan shifts about 11 days each year because its timing is based on the moon.)

As part of my research for those stories, I stumbled into an online debate about whether or not the NCAA should do more to accommodate players who are fasting.

It’s not hard to imagine a scenario in which teams with Muslim players and their teams are intentionally assigned to either the earliest or latest time slots, so that the players wouldn’t have to wait long after beginning their daily fast to get on the court or, in the case of late games, would break their fast before the game starts.

As I reflected on whether tournament organizers would ever make that scheduling adjustment, it dawned on me that this year’s March Madness action overlaps with more than Ramadan. It also overlaps with Easter, which falls on Sunday, March 31, this year. (The timing of Easter, like Ramadan’s timing, changes from year to year.)

Four teams will take the court on Easter for two Elite Eight games. The other four teams that make it to the Elite Eight will play on Saturday and have the chance to travel home that night.

To be sure, there’s nothing new about games disrupting athletes’ religious routines. In December, dozens of NBA and NFL players had to play on Christmas, and many college basketball players were also away from home on the holiday for tournaments.

And to be fair, the NCAA Tournament doesn’t pose the same challenges to Christian athletes on Easter as it does to Muslim players during Ramadan. Sure, they will likely miss their preferred worship service, but they won’t be fasting throughout the day.

Still, I’m curious about whether the tournament has ever considered pushing Easter games to the next day to give Christian players more time with loved ones — and to encourage rabid basketball fans to spend the day focusing on their family. It would cost extra money to keep control of the venues for an extra day and complicate fans’ travel plans, but I doubt it would have much of an impact on viewership.

What do you think? Is it time for March Madness organizers to be more sensitive to faith?


Fresh off the press

How Utah State’s Kalifa Sakho helped basketball fans understand Ramadan

The unique link between BYU and UConn during March Madness this year


Term of the week: Easter eggs

As you probably know, the phrase “Easter eggs” today refers to the colorful, typically plastic eggs that families and community organizations use in Easter egg hunts and/or in Easter baskets. The eggs are often filled with candy, small toys or cash.

Interestingly, the first known reference to Easter eggs in English in historical documents referred to something quite different. John Knox, a key figure in the Reformation, used the phrase to refer to the eggs thrown at a Catholic priest who had been tied to a cross in Edinburgh in the 1570s amid religious unrest, according to Christianity Today.

The first known description of an Easter egg hunt wasn’t put into writing until 110 years later — in 1682, the article said.


What I’m reading ...

The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled earlier this month that a custody order barring a father from bringing his child to church does not violate his free exercise rights. “The bottom line is that Mother has the exclusive authority to dictate Child’s religious training, and she has decided that Child shall not participate in Father’s church. Mother does not need to explain her reasons or justify her decision in any way,” the court wrote, according to Religion Clause.

The Rev. Thomas L. Bowen recently took on a fascinating new advising role: He helps the White House ensure that religious leaders understand national policy, according to Religion News Service.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday will hear oral arguments in a case over who can access abortion-inducing pills. In preparation, I’ve been rereading my past coverage of the battle, which many faith groups are following closely.

My friend and colleague Krysyan Edler, who edits this newsletter, published an important article last week about the rise of women’s basketball in the U.S. over the past few years.


Odds and ends

I shared an update on X about my younger son. I can’t believe how soon he’ll be one!

I’ll end by pointing you (again) to Christianity Today’s article on the origins of Easter traditions. It’s so interesting.