WIAA Bans Cheering at High School Sporting Events

Molly Burns and McClane McMullen

On December 22, 2015, an email sent from the WIAA to student athletes and Athletic Directors to remind them about sportsmanship with upcoming holiday basketball games.

On January 4, 2016, @AprilGehl24, a wisconsin high school athlete tweeted “EAT S**T WIAA” with an attached photo of a section of the email that was sent out.

This tweet received national and local publicity after Gehl was suspended for five games for her tweet. This caused students and Athletic Directors in the state of Wisconsin to begin doing research on the current sportsmanship rulebook.

Students, parents, journalists, and players took to Twitter to express their opinion on Gehl’s suspension. The story was also  picked up by local news stations including TODAY’S TMJ4  in Milwaukee, WISN and ESPN.

Celebrity analyst for ESPN, Jay Bilas, tweeted the following:

Alongside all the twitter commotion, students made statements to the WIAA by protesting at local high school games.

Students at Ashwaubenon High School showed up to their basketball game on Tuesday with duct tape over their mouths. The student section remained quiet until their team scored their sixth point. This was reported on by TODAY’S TMJ4 and was the first of a wave of local news networks to pick up student protests.

Students are signed online petitions. These petitions are requesting four thousand signatures at www.ipetitions.com/petition/wiaa-you-cant-do-that. They currently have 1,604 signatures with a goal of 4,000.

The online petition states “WIAA, you can’t do that. We want the students of Wisconsin to join together and voice their opinion in response to the new WIAA guidelines regarding acceptable student section actions.”  

Kevin Flegner, the athletic director at Arrowhead said, “The rules aren’t new, the rules have been there forever. We have allowed [the banned chants], but when it got too much we have told them to stop.

“What people are missing the boat on, is [Gehl] said very bad thing to the WIAA, under their code of conduct it falls under inappropriate language. Our student body knows what is right and what is wrong, and again it is building the relationship with the kids. Letting them have fun, but also knowing there is a line in the sand. If you cross it, you will be punished for it. I am not all the sudden going, oh man, we have to adhere to all of this and we are going to do it by the book. We have a mutual respect with the gators and fans already. When we walk over to the student section, you all are already on your best behavior. We are Arrowhead already, everybody already hates us because we do it the right way.”

The Arrowhead gators have been voicing their opinions on the topic.

Lead gator John Zanotti said, “This is ridiculous in my point of view. These cheers are what the student section thrives on, these have been in the tradition for a long time. These rules are mainly generated toward the basketball chants, and that is the season we are in right now. The cheers are so fun, and that is why everyone loves to come to the games. With these rules, the student’s coming to the games, and the amount of people will decrease, its garbage.”