NEW YORK (Aug. 30)
The women’s tennis teams of the Jewish Community Center of Central Florida face expulsion from the Orlando based Women’s Amateur Invitational League (WAIT) for refusing to play tennis matches on the premises of a country club with discriminatory membership policies.
The ongoing dispute reached the boiling point Thursday when Jewish community leaders, rabbinical leaders and clergy were threatened with arrest if they did not vacate the room where the league’s board was meeting to discuss the issue following a request from the JCC.
At the meeting, the board forwarded a motion to the league’s ruling committee which will decide the fate of the team. The committee must decide whether a team’s intentional forfeiture of a match can be permitted.
“We are quite pained with results of today’s meeting,” said JCC president Mitchel Laskey. “The league is forcing JCC to either violate moral convictions or to face expulsion.”
The conflict began in November 1989, when the JCC board of directors adopted a policy which clearly stated that private clubs which “exclude persons from membership because of their race, religion, gender or ethnicity” were unacceptable.
Team members had complained to the JCC of feeling uncomfortable competing on the grounds of a club where they would not be permitted as members.
The JCC then acted to bring to the attention of the WAIT league the discriminatory practices of the Country Club of Orlando, which targets itself against potential members on the basis of race, religion and gender. The club of over 400 members has no black members and reportedly has just admitted a single Jewish member.
Club spokesman Donald Estridge was unavailable for comment but officials have made it practice to decline comment on the issue.
While the JCC team has refused to play the club at its facilities, they did offer to play the team at a neutral court and offered to pay any necessary costs associated with the rescheduling.
In May, the JCC had asked the Orlando-area league to change its bylaws to prevent participation by organizations that have discriminatory membership policies.
The league voted not to change its bylaws, in a meeting which JCC officials claim was unfair because the issue had been placed on the bottom of the agenda.
“Very little time was given to discuss the issue,” Laskey wrote in a letter to WAIT league president Fran Kastl, and that “much more time was given to discuss the bathroom break between matches.”
The JCC then requested an emergency meeting of the league board, held today, to discuss the proposed bylaw change.
“It’s no question that we have been railroaded by the league,” said Laskey. “But it is clear that we will not participate in a discriminatory league.”
Asked whether legal action is being considered, Laskey said that “all available options are being considered.”