You’re at a basketball game, any basketball game, when a visiting player takes a shot that misses everything. How does the crowd react? Why, with a chant of “Air-ball! Air-ball!” of course.
Except at Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association games, as of this season. Students are banned from making that chant, as well as others that, the high school athletics body wrote, “are clearly intended to taunt or disrespect.”
Other phrases on the do-not-chant list include:
- “You can’t do that”
- “There’s a net there”
- “We can’t hear you”
- “Season’s over”
This news came to light following the suspension of a star basketball player in that league. April Gehl of Hilbert (Wisc.) High received a five-game suspension for a tweet which included profanity in expressing dismay at the WIAA’s new restrictions.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Gehl said of her suspension to the Appleton (Wisc.) Post-Crescent. “I was like, ‘Really? For tweeting my opinion?’ I thought it was ridiculous.”
An email sent by the WIAA in December included these comments:
“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.”
The WIAA may have an uphill battle on its hands in eliminating chants such as “Air-ball!” and “Scoreboard!” Fans — of all ages — at basketball games have been yelling stuff like that at opposing players for a lot longer than since the fall, with those players mostly surviving the experience.