This may be the worst case yet.
Parents or adult fans fighting or acting out at youth sports events has become an unfortunately common example of American dysfunction.
Most of the time, the misbehavior seems to grows out of something happening on the court or field, like a crucial call by a referee or a hard or unsportsmanlike play among the kids.
Last week in Santa Fe, adults at – of all things – an elementary school basketball game created grounds for fisticuffs totally from their own obnoxiousness, judging from the unfortunately necessary police and court records.
It’s apparently never too early to start showing kids how NOT to behave.
The girls team from Acequia Madre Elementary was facing off against the team from Turquoise Trail Charter School Elementary.
All sides agree there was a brawl as the game ended in an Acequia Madre victory. A deputy reported that one woman he interviewed had a small scrape on the left side of her chin that was still bleeding, dried blood on her hand and “two different colors of hair on her jacket.”
A woman with the Acequia Madre contingent said that women among Turquoise Trail supporters starting calling an Acequia Madre player a “fat b.” Really, what could inspire adults to call a grade school athlete something like that? The Turquoise Trail group also is alleged to have urged one of their players to push an opponent.
So how did offended Acequia Madre women respond? By calling the Turquoise Trail partisans “Mexicans.” The hoops league’s commissioner said they also were heard saying, “You can’t put Mexicans and Americans together. This is what happens.” One admitted to using the term “(expletive) Mexicans” and after the fight used a stereotype to describe for a deputy the women she had exchanged punches with.
A ref and the youth league’s commissioner fingered the Acequia Madre women for starting the fight with the racial remarks.
One of the Acequia Madre women said that, after the game, one of the Turquoise Trail women walked up behind her, grabbed her hair, pulled her head down and started punching her in the head. She said she began to fight back and noticed one of the other women was on top of her mother.
Four women, two from each side, are now charged with the petty misdemeanor of public affray. More people than that apparently joined in the imbroglio, said to have lasted 10 minutes.
Again, the authorities involved seem to focus on the racial remarks as the spark of the fight instead of the alleged body-shape shaming.
On the Facebook page of the Santa Fe Independent Youth Basketball Program, a message about the incident was posted that says, “We will not stand for any type of racial attacks or hurtful words to be used in any of our events. We do not align with, agree with or allow any type of behavior that is negatively directed toward any race. Our program is to teach all our student athletes to compete with class and to recognize that character transcends any sport.”
Offenders will be banned from games, says the message.
The two teams were allowed to finish their seasons with additional tournament games last weekend. “The league would never punish the student athletes for the actions of thoughtless adults,” the Facebook post states. “The league hopes to use this negative situation as a teaching moment for the student athletes about the dangers of promoting and accepting hate.”
It’s hard to argue with the league’s decisions here. There’s no indication the girls on the court had anything to do with the bad blood among the adults.
Public affray is a petty misdemeanor, punishable by up to 6 months in jail and up to a $500 fine. In this case, we hope the judge comes up with more creative ways to punish whomever is found guilty, such as ordering a public apology (a sanction that, appropriately, is more typically assigned to juvenile offenders) or assigning the offenders to clean up after a basketball game.
Or maybe they should be made to address the kids who were playing that game – look them in the face and tell them why they called them fat or their fans bleeping Mexicans. Then, let the players decide what to do with them.