#FreeApril is big news in student athlete land this week. It didn’t have to be this way; it could all have gone away quite easily. Here’s the story, in case you don’t follow high school sports all that closely:
In December, the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA), the governing body for Wisconsin high school sports, sent out an email reminding athletes and fans that chanting and taunting opposing fans and players is not permitted. As you can see below, the WIAA’s stance seems far too rigid. Included in the email were the following directions:
“Any action directed at opposing teams or spectators with the intent to taunt, disrespect, distract or entice and unsporting behavior in response is not acceptable sportsmanship…[unacceptable chants include] “You can’t do that,” “Fundamentals,” “Airball,” “There’s a net there”…”
Unsportsmanlike conduct should have no place in high school sports, but an engaged crowd that is boisterously cheering and occasionally poking fun at the opposing team is no big deal, in our opinion.
One player on the Hilbert High School basketball team took issue with the email and directive, and tweeted the following screenshot along with the message shown:
As much as we disagree with how strict the rules are, that was a mistake. The player was suspended for five games (by her schools admins, not by the WIAA) and local and national fans took up the cause. ESPN Analyst Jay Bilas tweeted the following, among other things:
As of today, that tweet has been retweeted over 1,000 times and liked over 3,000 times. Fans are using the #freeapril hashtag to show support.
We think that the athlete, although she apparently feels strongly about the subject, isn’t doing herself any favors. The problem for us is (a) the profanity in the tweet, (b) that she directed the tweet at the WIAA, the governing body of her sports, and (c) that she hasn’t deleted it.
When we first heard of the story yesterday, we were SURE the original tweet would have been deleted. That it wasn’t is a mistake. The odds are that someone is going to be looking at her Twitter account – tomorrow or down the road who will be trying to evaluate her character. Perhaps it will be a college coach, perhaps a future employer. The passion that she thinks she’s displaying could be interpreted as a flagrant disregard for the rules or as her having a problem with authority.
She took a stand and was punished. Her parents should have advised her to cut her losses and delete the tweet.
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