Q. One of the Lions, a team in our recreational men's soccer league, approached us officials about a female player on the Dream Center, the team they'd face next. Several of the Lions are Muslim, he said, and their religion forbids contact with a woman in this way, and they wanted to avoid the possibility of injuring her. And they did join a men's league. The Dream Center's manager said that the Lions could forfeit if they wished. Should we back his decision? Bar that player for this game? Change the matchups to avoid the conflict? — Andy Zmugg and Craig Meller, Peoria, Ill.
Let her play. While this is nominally a men's league, you allowed her to join the Dream Center and compete in previous contests: How can you bar her now? Consistency has its claims. And while the Lions' concern for her safety might be well meant, that is a matter for her to decide; the Lions may not impose safety upon her.
Next you must clarify the rules for the future. In doing so, be wary of men's eagerness to protect women, something that can be indistinguishable from simply restricting women's activities and cultivating segregation. Nor should you invoke religious strictures to regulate a secular pursuit in a pluralistic community.
There are legitimate reasons for considering sex in sports as it relates to physical factors – size, strength, speed – but not to ideology. (Nobody would deny the legitimacy of the Ladies Professional Golf Association; everyone should reject a No Jews Allowed Golf Association.) It is a fine thing to create conditions for well-balanced contests. But players should have a chance to vie in a more competitive league if they choose – female golfers in PGA events, for example.
UPDATE: The woman agreed to sit out that one game. The conflict reappeared when these same teams met in the playoffs. The Dream Center defended its player's right to compete; the Lions demurred. The league matched each against a different team in lieu of a championship game. Going forward, the rules will define this as an “adult league” open to men and women. The Lions will probably withdraw.
Q. About a year ago, I bought a Pomeranian for $1,500 from a friend who said he was moving and had to give up the dog. He said he'd found it at the beach the year before and was unable to locate its owner. Six months later, he announced that he had in fact seen fliers for the lost dog but declined to contact its owner. My children and I love the dog, but must we now try to find the original owners?– M.S., Manhasset, N.Y.
Two years on, it might be tough to find the original owner, but you should try – to clear your conscience and set an example for your kids. Put yourself in the owner's (chewed-up and drooled-upon) shoes. Wouldn't you want your dog back, even now? Wouldn't you at least want to know that your dog is happy and healthy? (And worth a cool $1,500 on the black market?)
It would be sad to part with the dog but worse to remain passive now that you know its origins (and worse still to pal around with your friend now that you know his values). And remember that every shelter houses wonderful dogs in need of homes.
UPDATE: M.S. still has the dog but plans to put up fliers soon.