Regular readers know that I am not a fan of the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association for numerous reasons.
The WIAA’s latest ham-handed attempt to curb the enthusiasm of fans of high school sports, which has gotten worldwide ridicule, has gotten others to notice the WIAA’s other flaws
For instance, state Rep. John Nygren (R–Marinette):
The WIAA has taken it upon themselves to change the experiences students face by disallowing such “offensive” language as ‘Air Ball,’ ‘Scoreboard,’ and even chanting ‘USA-USA.’ It is clear, beyond all doubt, that left unchecked, an authority like the WIAA will continue to test the boundaries to see how far they can go. The WIAA has taken it far enough to encourage the punishment of students who speak out against the WIAA.
Because of this, I will be re-introducing a bill originally authored by former Democrat Representative Tony Staskunas which will make the WIAA subject to the open records and meetings laws. When decisions are made with taxpayer money, the public deserves to have a say, or at least a look into the decision room. Policies like these, which suggest a mere suppression of speech, deserve more oversight and scrutiny, and I aim to ensure that in the future.
It is, of course, ironic that Nygren comes from the party whose leadership tried to gut the state Open Meetings and Open Records laws until the news media made them stop on, of all days, Independence Day. Regardless of that, Staskunas was and Nygren is absolutely correct.
There is some potential precedent even under existing law. The superintendents of Six Rivers Conference schools recently were ruled to have violated the Open Meetings Law in their secret vote to dissolve the Benton–Shullsburg girls basketball cooperative team. The judge ruled that the athletic conference constitutes a government body because it serves a government function.
Whether that precedent would extend to the WIAA, which claims to be “a voluntary membership of public and non-public schools” that “receives no funding from taxpayer dollars,” would be solved by Nygren’s bill’s becoming law. As it is, the WIAA’s claim is somewhere between disingenuous and blatantly false, given that taxpayers fund all activities the WIAA governs, including but not limited to (1) buildings where regular-season and postseason games take place; (2) the salaries of athletic coaches; (3) travel to and from WIAA-sponsored events; (4) athletic equipment; and, until the WIAA started waiving them, (5) WIAA membership fees.
Kevin Binversie thinks the WIAA has been going out of bounds from its mission well before this:
Life must have been so much simpler for the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) just over a week ago. Back when all they had to worry about where charges of unbalanced conferences and how’d they would run the next series of state tournaments. A time when their biggest problems were charges they were manipulating playoff brackets and playing Madison against Green Bay over which city hosts the state basketball tournaments. …
While on the field criticism of the WIAA has and will remain common throughout the state; most of that was for things regarding on the field action. What the entire April Gehl / chant ban incident has done is show the state not only how over reactive and out of touch the WIAA is. But also, where its political leanings lie; clearly on the center-left.
Learned conservatives often debate the merits of something called “O’Sullivan’s Law” and how quickly it takes hold. Named after British writer and former National Review editor-in-chief John O’Sullivan, the axiom states that for any organization or enterprise not expressly conservative; regardless of size, will eventually become more and more liberal as time goes by.
The WIAA is a prime example of “O’Sullivan’s Law” in action. The organization’s original purpose was to organize the games and tournaments between Wisconsin’s high schools. Now, it’s acting as the state’s “Bully Police” and doing all it can to ensure no one’s self-esteem is hurt.
But this isn’t the first time the WIAA has ventured into politics, or has used its capacity as “State Games Master” to advance liberal causes. The organization’s leadership has hardly hid its antipathy of high schools using Native American mascots and was believed to be heavily involved in the law which tried to ban them during the Doyle Administration.
When that law was repealed in 2013, lawmakers included a measure forbidding the WIAA from barring membership to any school with a Native American mascot. This prompted Wisconsin State Journal columnist Chris Rickert to ponder in early 2014 if the next step was for the WIAA to do what its collegiate big brother, the NCAA, has done and bar any school with a Native American mascot from post-season play.
But it wouldn’t appear to keep the WIAA from doing what the National Collegiate Athletic Association did in 2005, when it banned colleges with Indian mascots from taking them or related imagery to NCAA tournaments and prohibited such colleges from hosting tournament games — unless they got the OK from their namesake tribes to retain their mascots or nicknames.
The results of the NCAA’s move were substantial and, in some cases, swift. Of the 18 schools whose mascots the NCAA deemed “hostile or abusive,” 13 have made changes to comply with NCAA rules and five have gotten the OK from tribes to maintain their mascots.
Now, no one currently thinks the WIAA is going to go to that extreme against schools with Native American mascots. But then again, no one thought 2005 revisions the organization established for sportsmanship would lead to this round of idiocy.
Perhaps the time has come for WIAA leadership to stick to what it does best and run sporting events, not act as an agent of liberal social engineering. Of course, that would have to imply they learned their lesson this time.
All the chanting in the world might not be able to accomplish that.