WIAA criticized over memo regarding student chants

January 13, 2016 / Athletic AdministrationCoaching
An attempt by Wisconsin’s athletic association to censor high school student sections has created quite a stir. And a lot of confusion.

Students protest a recent memo from the WIAA that called attention to "unsportsmanlike chants" during games. | Photo via Twitter, @wtoonen
Students protest a recent memo from the WIAA that called attention to “unsportsmanlike chants” during games. | Photo via Twitter, @wtoonen

In December, a memo sent by the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) to state high school officials took issue with student chants that were “clearly intended to taunt or disrespect.”

As reported by the Post Crescent, here is part of the memo:

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.

The email specifically took issue with these chants from students:

  • “Fundamentals.”
  • “You can’t do that.”
  • “Air ball.”
  • “There’s a net there.”
  • “Sieve”
  • “We can’t hear you.”
  • “Scoreboard.”
  • “Season’s over.”

Reading the memo, one could easily conclude that the WIAA is banning those chants by students, but the organization insists that’s not the case. On Wednesday, the WIAA sent an email to schools reminding them that there are “no new directives, no new rules, no new mandates, no new enforcement expectations associated with the (original) email.” Fair enough, but that suggests there was essentially no point in sending the first memo. Why take time alerting officials to specific chants if you don’t want something done about them?

Regardless, students and former athletes have sounded off on the issue. The Wisconsin State Journal has a nice roundup of statewide reactions, which include students wearing duct tape over their mouths or carrying a sign that reads “WIAA Censored.” Former Wisconsin Badgers basketball player Sam Dekker, who now plays for the Houston Rockets, sent this tweet:

The WIAA’s memo came to light after a tweet from Hilbert High School athlete April Gehl. Gehl reportedly sent a profane tweet directed at the WIAA regarding its censorship of students. The school’s athletic director suspended the basketball player for five games. More on that story can be found here.

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