Earlier this week, the Wisconsin Interscholastic Activities Association made headlines for an email message it sent to schools in late December reminding them about a long-standing rule about sportsmanship.
The email listed several common chants – “You can’t do that,” “Airball,” etc. – that when directed at opposing teams would be considered unsportsmanlike, and could lead to disciplinary action.
In the ‘Defining Sportsmanship’ section of the WIAA sportsmanship guide, these cheers are described as taunting and disrespectful.
A high school basketball player was suspended five games for a tweet critical of the governing body after the email was released.
In response, students at Ashwaubenon High School and Luther Prep staged demonstrations, wearing black shirts and duct tape over their mouths.
The protests came on the heels of larger public outcry against the WIAA’s rules, which many deemed to be overly sensitive. Even ESPN basketball analyst Jay Bilas got in on the action.
WIAA acceptable chant: "We note your attempt did not reach the rim, but only to alert the clock operator that a reset is unnecessary."— Jay Bilas (@JayBilas) January 12, 2016
In the wake of the backlash, WIAA executive director Dave Anderson apologized for the email, which he says has been misunderstood.
“From our perspective, the email was simply a reminder in advance of the many holiday tournaments held every year across the membership,” Anderson wrote in an email. “Nothing more, nothing less, than wat has been shared across the membership via the Sportsmanship Manual since 2005.”
“To be clear, there has been no new directives, no new rules, no new mandates, no new enforcement expectations associated with the email,” his message continued.