About year ago, when we were still painfully, if not unwittingly, early in the shutdown of high school sports, Mick Hoffman expressed a sentiment with which many of us could agree.
The executive director of the WIAA said that it was his hope when sports returned, we would all remember what was lost then use that perspective to ease off the yelling at opposing players, coaches and particularly the officials.
A year later, I can report, at least at the games that I’ve been at, that the barbs from the stands have been largely toned down.
That’s not to say they are gone completely. That would have been too much to expect.
But it some parts of the state, the taunts from the stands are very much around. And in some cases, they have crossed the line.
The boys basketball team at Capital High School in Olympia tweeted out the following announcement last week.
“Unfortunately, due to continued unacceptable behavior by our students, both during and after our basketball games, no students will be allowed at our home basketball games for the remainder of the season. Cheering and being loud for our team is great. Coming to the game just to insult and verbally attack the other team will not be tolerated!”
According to the online news site the Journal of Olympia, Lacey and Tumwater, Capital students were being unsportsmanlike by shouting at game officials as well as students, fans and players from Yelm High School. The students continued their taunts even after being redirected by Capital officials.
The Olympia School District clarified the team’s tweet to state that Capital students could continue to attend basketball games provided the students were accompanied by a parent or guardian.
In other parts of the state, it feels that the line wasn’t just crossed, it was obliterated.
On May 20, Mariner girls basketball coach Reggie Davis pulled his team from the court with four minutes to play in a game against Lakewood High because of alleged discriminatory comments aimed at Black players during a game at Lakewood.
The Everett Herald reported that the Lakewood and Mukilteo school districts have hired a third-party investigator to look into the allegations. A report is expected by June 11.
On May 22, a video showed Connell students making racist remarks, noises and gesture toward two Zillah players during a girls basketball game. At one point, Zillah coach Brandie Valadez can be seen shouting “That is very racist. That is racist.”
After a brief investigation, the South Central Athletic Conference voted to ban Connell’s boys and girls basketball teams from participating in the league’s postseason playoffs, the Yakima Herald-Republic reported. In addition, no Connell fans would be allowed to attend any home or away games for the balance of the season.
Those sanctions came on top of Connell’s self-imposed sanctions, which bars all Connell students from basketball games indefinitely.
Connell athletic director Stephen Pyeatt issued an apology to the Zillah players, coaches, fans and community on the school’s Facebook page.
“I want to take this time to apologize for the racist actions that transpired while I was in charge of the girls basketball game on May 22, 2021,” the statement read. “I know that what happened has caused an immense amount of pain to you as a player, coach, fan, family member, and community member, and I am deeply sorry.
“You did not deserve this in any way, and no one should ever have to be subjected to what happened.”
Taken individually, the events could be categorized as isolated incidents. Taken together, it makes you wonder if the lower volume of noise in gyms has exposed an ugly underbelly that has been there all along.
In a full gym of fans, with cheerleaders cheering and bands playing, remarks of this nature can be passed off as “Oh, you heard it wrong.” Or “That’s not what they said,” as the normal gym noise mutes or drowns out inappropriate remarks.
Recent events led the WIAA to release a statement saying: “Recent incidents involving hateful comments and remarks at multiple school contests are completely unacceptable and will not be tolerated. There is no place for racist actions or words at these events. The WIAA implores our member schools to create a safe and healthy environment where all students can enjoy the benefits of participation.”
That’s a stark contrast from Hoffman’s optimistic hope from a year ago when nobody was playing anything.