Wisconsin sportsmanship guidelines set dangerous precedent

By Ryan Harding

Political correctness and other controlled forms of speech, as many of us college students argue, are a pervasive part of our modern society. This is especially true in education. 

Recently, for example, the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association has come under fire for its sportsmanship guideline for high school basketball games. The guideline requires public schools to enforce, bans on common chants such as, “You can’t do that,” “Warm up the bus,” “Overrated,” “Scoreboard,” “Air ball,” and “We can’t hear you.” CH

Surprisingly, the association even banned the chant “U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A” because they deemed it a sexual innuendo. They also banned turning your back to the court during an opponent’s introduction, doing the wave, body painting, booing, and “dressing in attire that is not associated with school spirit.”CH

Now, while of course actual unsportsmanlike conduct should be prohibited at basketball games, this sportsmanship guideline goes too far. The chants proscribed are, for the most part, innocuous and innocent, and are a traditional part of high school athletics that shouldn’t be thrown under the bus, which hopefully was warmed up prior to being driven, just because the “P.C. Police” find the chants to be “inappropriate sportsmanship.” Further, it does not hurt anyone if students wear appropriate paint on their face or do the wave.

The events in Wisconsin may seem trivial and far removed from our daily lives, but they are not. They represent a broader, authoritarian element within our culture that seeks to enforce compliance of conduct and the regulation of speech.

It wouldn’t be surprising if the University sought to enforce a similar sportsmanship guideline at Illini basketball games, given its track record of free speech infringement, its longing to be on the vanguard of political correctness and its contempt for its own athletic traditions. As a recent example, consider the six-figure settlement the University paid Steven Salaita after revoking his offer of employment for expressing controversial views. 

As for political correctness, consider a recent University report which concluded that walking into a room full of white people can constitute a micro aggression and encouraged the university to require “all students to complete a General Education requirement about race, white privilege, and inequality in the United States” as well as “both a non-Western culture and a U.S. people of color cultural course.” For contempt of athletic traditions, look no further than recent attempts to try and ban the “Three-in-One” band production by faculty members.

This history breeds the perfect conditions for a University administrator to start forming a plan on how to quash “inappropriate sportsmanship” at our games under the guise of political correctness. For example, the “U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A” chant could be proscribed because it is a micro aggression against non-U.S. citizens and the “We can’t hear you” chant could be proscribed because it is offensive to the hearing impaired. 

Even Illini traditions such as the Orange Krush student section could find themselves in the crossfire of such a sportsmanship guideline because of their high intensity during the game, use of body paint and “dressing in attire that is not associated with school spirit.”

A threat to free speech anywhere is a threat to free speech everywhere, and we students have a special responsibility to denounce such actions. Thus, even though the WIAA actions seem comical and far removed, they must be denounced because they could serve as precedent and a road map for University administrators in our own backyard.

Ryan is a law student at the University.CH all the facts

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