Spanish-muttering player is penalized
For the second time in a month, a high school official has warned a New Mexico athlete for speaking a language other than English during a sporting event.
And this time, there was a penalty involved for the athlete.
Twice during Thursday night’s boys Class 1A-3A state championship singles match at the Jerry Cline Complex, an on-court official working the tournament for the New Mexico Activities Association told New Mexico Military Institute’s Jose Gonzales not to speak Spanish.
NMAA executive director Sally Marquez identified the official as Brian Bingham of Albuquerque.
“English only, please,” Bingham said to Gonzales late in the second set of Gonzales’ 6-4, 6-3 loss to Sandia Prep’s Michael Atkin.
Bingham later told the Journal that he had twice warned Gonzales against speaking Spanish during the match.
And when Gonzales muttered something in Spanish after the second warning — with Atkin leading 5-3 in the second set — Bingham penalized him a point, and Gonzales began the service game already down 0-15.
In a brief interview after the match, Bingham said he did not speak Spanish and didn’t know what Gonzales had said.
“I don’t care what it was,” Bingham said. “It was a curse word to me.”
But unlike an incident last month in Alamogordo in which an umpire came under fire, it apparently was within Bingham’s discretion to penalize Gonzales, since the NMAA is following the United States Tennis Association rule book this week.
NMAA assistant director of sports Joe Butler said he spoke to Bingham late Thursday night.
“The crux of what he told me is, the USTA code requires a player to basically speak in a language that the official can understand,” Butler said.
“And that in a situation where there’s an emotional outburst … if the official cannot understand what’s being said, then it will be subject to a penalty.”
Marquez, however, said it is within her authority to override any rule.
“We will not abide by that rule,” she added.
Marquez said Bingham is a local USTA official. The USTA website lists Bingham as the Northern New Mexico Officials Chair.
“Brian is a very good official,” Marquez said. “He’s one of the top officials in the state.”
Last month, Alamogordo baseball umpire Corey Jones resigned after he came under fire for allegedly threatening to eject Gadsden High players if they continued speaking Spanish during a game.
Marquez said Bingham “has been officially warned” not to repeat that action.
“I do not condone (it),” Marquez said. “The position of the NMAA is that kids can speak whatever language they want to speak. We are not in a position to tell any kid what language to speak. We have foreign kids playing across every single sport.”
Gonzales did not blame his loss to Atkin on the issue.
“I didn’t try to take it personal, but it actually kind of got me distracted,” Gonzales said, adding that no official in his NMMI career had ever warned him before for not using English.
Marquez said Bingham would continue to work the rest of the state tournament, which continues today with the start of team competition.
“He does understand that will not happen again,” Marquez said.