Protests in Wisconsin Jeopardize Athletic, Recreation Events

At least a dozen boys' and girls' basketball games in and around Madison, Wis., were canceled Thursday night in the wake of widespread school closures and ongoing protests at the state Capitol. Gov. Scott Walker's controversial budget-repair bill calls for stripping state union workers (including public school teachers) of nearly all collective bargaining rights. But while several Wisconsin school districts called off classes for the third straight day Friday in anticipation of staff absences - union leaders urged teachers statewide to pilgrimage to Madison - most were following the recommendation of the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association and going ahead with regularly scheduled games tonight.


Dave Kapp, athletic director at Madison East High School, told that only WIAA playoff sports (hockey, swimming and wrestling) would be allowed to practice and compete Thursday, while ADs from other schools said that if more basketball games were canceled as a result of school closings, the games likely would not be made up.

A total of 25 boys' regional hockey finals were scheduled Thursday night, as well as 12 girls' finals. Seven more boys' finals are slated for today, along with four girls' games. And the boys' swimming and diving state championships were scheduled to begin today on the University of Wisconsin campus, not far from where protests are likely to continue throughout the weekend.

"We're not sensing any of our schools or teachers want to see kids put in the middle of this matter," WIAA assistant director Tom Shafranski told, adding that administrators in some districts indicated they would wave rules about canceling after-school activities on days when classes are canceled. "Most school districts have instituted no-practice/no-play for weather-related situations. This is not weather-related, so there are no travel-safety concerns. Our preference is for all games to continue to be played."

Meanwhile, it appears as if events scheduled as part of the seventh annual Madison Winter Festival will not enjoy the same fate. The Wisconsin State Journal is reporting that plans to transport nearly 100 truckloads of snow to the Capitol Square - ground zero for this week's protests - have been canceled. In years past, the snow has been used to convert pavement near the Capitol building into a cross-country ski track. A top international field of skiers had been expected to compete, along with high school and adult amateur racers. Other family-friendly and competitive events planned also included sledding and snowshoeing, and crowd estimates were as high as 60,000.

But organizers of the event, held in conjunction with the Madison Parks Department, were told Thursday that no activities would be allowed on the Capitol Square this weekend. A meeting was scheduled with city officials for Friday morning to discuss the possibility of moving some of the planned activities to alternate sites. "There's not much we can do about it," festival president Yuriy Gusev told the State Journal.

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