The Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association sent an email to athletic directors last month with a list of cheers that have been deemed contrary to good sportsmanship. The list, published by the Appleton Post-Crescent, went viral Wednesday after a three-sport athlete was suspended for five games for tweeting her criticism of them. The three-word tweet included a profanity.
“We can’t hear you”
"You can’t do that”
“There’s a net there”
Here are three paragraphs from the email, which was obtained by the Post-Crescent and published on its web site.
As we reviewed the fall tournaments and the sportsmanship evaluations and observations, we want to address concerns with a noticeable increase in the amount of chants by student sections directed at opponents and/or opponents’ supporters that are clearly intended to taunt or disrespect.
Not wanting to restrict creativity or enjoyment, an enthusiastic and boisterous display of support for a school’s team is welcomed and encouraged at interscholastic events when directed in a positive manner. However, any action directed at opposing teams or their spectators with the intent to taunt, disrespect, distract or entice an unsporting behavior in response in not acceptable sportsmanship. Student groups, school administrators and event managers should take immediate steps to correct this unsporting behavior.
Some specific examples of unsporting behavior by student groups including chants directed at opposing participants and/or fans. Among the chants that have been heard at recent high school sporting events are: “You can’t do that,” “Fundamentals,” “Air ball,” “There’s a net there,” “Sieve,” “We can’t hear you,” The “scoreboard” cheer, and “Season’s over” during tournament series play.
Last week, April Gehl of Hilbert High School responded to the email with her critical tweet. On Wednesday, she was told she would be suspended for her basketball team's next five games.
She told Ricardo Arguello of the Appleton newspaper: “I couldn’t believe it. I was like, ‘Really? For tweeting my opinion?’ I thought it was ridiculous.”
So does Kenny Ducey, writing on the Sports Illustrated web site: Gehl is a true hero for bringing these rules to light. In what state is a 16-year-old kid yelling “Airrrrr-ballllll” considered something that’s so disrespectful it needs to be banned? How is reminding the other team that you need to improve your fundamentals a bad thing? Who even chants “There’s a net there” anyway?
ESPN basketball analyst Jay Bilas was among those who thought the Wisconsin rules are a bit goofy.
How ridiculous. The "adults" making these decisions have too much time on their hands, and too little sense. https://t.co/Lm5tVnnMjR— Jay Bilas (@JayBilas) January 12, 2016
It was the beginning of a Twitter rant that included this, among about a dozen other tweets.
WIAA acceptable chant on FT attempt: "We cannot in good conscience pretend we want you to make this, but wish you good luck, nonetheless."— Jay Bilas (@JayBilas) January 12, 2016
The Forbes magazine website wrote about the situation with this headline: Teen Athlete Tweets: Wisconsin Incident Highlights Need For Adults To Stop Overreacting.
And Troy Machir of the Sporting News weighed in with this:
The WIAA has gone to extreme measures to make sure the athletic arenas and fields are as clean and positive as possible, yet the clearly forgot to ban the "overrated" chant, one of the most obnoxious and misused chants in all of sports.
Here's one for you, WIAA:
Back to Appleton. Gehl told the local newspaper she hasn't taken down the tweet because she's already been punished for it. And her mother, Jill Gehl, said the family isn't planning on appealing the suspension: “Sure, what she said wasn’t the right words and wasn’t the best thing to do. I wasn’t real upset with her because there have been a lot more worse things said on Facebook and Twitter to specific people. This to me was more of a general response to an organization per se, not an individual. So, sure, I’m upset with it. But we just have to deal with the consequences.”
You can read the Appleton story and its other coverage of the issue, including an editorial, here.