WIAA | Rules for razzing considered
Seattle Times staff reporter
Snohomish students razz Decatur's 5-foot-7, 122-pound guard Michael Hale at the Class 4A state boys basketball tournament last week by chanting names of pint-sized personalities Gary Coleman and Lil' Bow Wow.
A few days later, Snohomish guard Kegan Bone touches the ball and Edmonds-Woodway fans loudly chant, "Caitlyn! Caitlyn!" — an apparent reference to his girlfriend.
Was it all just good-natured fun? Or inappropriate and offensive?
The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association, the organization that governs high-school sports, is trying to figure out where to draw that line.
A 15-member committee of administrators and school officials has come up with a draft of guidelines that the WIAA hopes to implement throughout the state by the beginning of next school year.
Among the draft's highlights, which should be finalized in May:
â€¢ Each school will get a checklist of acceptable and unacceptable behaviors at high-school sports events.
â€¢ Schools will have their own rules on face-painting, signs and attire;
â€¢ Names of schools that show good sportsmanship will be published;
â€¢ If a student section disrespects the opposing team during player introductions — by holding up newspapers or turning their backs, for example — introductions will be stopped until appropriate behavior is demonstrated.
WIAA executive director Mike Colbrese said "unacceptable behaviors" include booing, personal attacks on officials and organized chants that focus on one player, such as the situation in the Snohomish-Decatur game.
If that happens, "We'll go to the school administrator," Colbrese said, "and we'll say, 'You need to have your cheerleaders start a positive cheer.' "
But Colbrese said the guidelines ultimately are just that. His organization does not plan to enforce them with penalties to the school or the team except in "extreme" case-by-case exceptions — for example, where someone's safety is threatened.
"These are things that our administrators have been asking for," Colbrese said. "From my perspective, it's really the right thing to do, so everybody has a positive experience. It's about keeping winning and losing in a proper perspective."
He also said one reason fewer people are signing up to be referees is because they don't like the verbal abuse that comes with the job.
Snohomish athletic director Mark Albertine was concerned enough about the Gary Coleman chants that he looked afterward for the students responsible.
Negative chants and booing don't sit well with Albertine, but he admits there are lots of gray areas. Is it a personal attack or an observation? Is it a few mean-spirited individuals or a crowd caught up in a game? How do you rein in emotions? How do you control parents?
Decatur basketball coach Kevin Olson said there is a line between cleaning up boorish behavior and maintaining an exciting, competitive environment.
"But I'm not sure where to put it," he said. "I know Michael [Hale] wasn't worried about any of that. I don't want the crowd to be so restricted where it's like a morgue out there."
Michael Ko: 206-515-5536 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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