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Editorial: Parents of young athletes need to grow up or get out

Just when you thought sports parents couldn’t get worse, last week in Santa Fe, obnoxious adults at – of all things – an elementary school basketball game took it to a new low, and that’s saying something.

It’s apparently never too early to start showing kids how NOT to behave.

The girls team from Acequia Madre was facing off against the team from Turquoise Trail Charter School. The brawl erupted as the game ended in an Acequia Madre victory. A deputy reported that one woman had a 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 women among Turquoise Trail supporters started calling an Acequia Madre player a “fat b.” Honestly, in what world is it OK to call a child, or anyone, 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 adults respond? By going even lower and calling the Turquoise Trail fans “Mexicans.” The hoops league’s commissioner said they also were heard saying, “You can’t put Mexicans and Americans together. This is what happens.” Isn’t that a nice impromptu social studies lesson? One admitted using the term “(expletive) Mexicans.” A ref and the youth league’s commissioner accused the Acequia Madre women of starting the fight with the racial remarks.

One of the Acequia Madre women said that, after the game, one of the Turquoise Trail women grabbed her hair and started punching her in the head. She said she fought 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. The authorities are focusing on the racial remarks as the cause 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 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.”

The message says offenders will be banned from games. Public affray is a petty misdemeanor, punishable by up to 6 months in jail and up to a $500 fine. Note to judge: A public apology, assigning clean-up duty after a game, etiquette classes or community service wouldn’t hurt, either.

Or maybe the guilty adults should be made to address the young players from that game – look those children in the face and explain why it was acceptable conduct to call them fat or their fans bleeping Mexicans.

This sorry incident comes on the heels of a major fight between the football teams from Bernalillo and Española Valley, causing the Española coach to pull his team in the middle of the first quarter and forfeit the game. Sources from Bernalillo told the Journal they witnessed adult Sundevil fans throwing punches. Most fans were later barred from attending the Oct. 26 game between Española Valley and St. Pius because of that incident. And in March, a brawl erupted during a youth club soccer match between Alameda 99 and Rio Galaxy. Some players and coaches allege ethnic slurs and anti-white epithets led to the incident. Things got physical, and there’s even an allegation that a parent physically assaulted a player.

There is no defense for such actions, which are antithetical to all the good things team sports engender, not to mention the basics of decent parenting. If adults can’t model sportsmanlike conduct, they need to be cut from team activities.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.