This past Friday evening, I attended a varsity football game at Atholton High School. As a regular attendee for six years of high school football games, I experienced a surprisingly offensive evening like never before.
The problem wasn't the players or the fans on either team. It was the atmosphere generated by the school itself. From the Howard County Public School System website, it states that one of the objectives for athletics is to "channel student energies toward developing useful citizenship skills." From the Maryland Public Secondary School Athletic Association, whose motto is "Respect the Game" it states: "Let all our actions be guided by respect."
The offensive aspect of the evening was the complete lack of respect for the visiting team that was very publicly demonstrated. For the entire first half of the game, including pre-game announcements (which did not include the MPSSAA "Respect the Game" statement), the visiting team was never once mentioned by name — school name, team name, or any player name or number. We were only referred to as "the white team" – the color of our visiting uniforms. It went something like this: "The white team will kick off," "The white team is on the 40 yard line," "The white team has a penalty," and on and on.
It's difficult to convey in just a few words the atmosphere that this generated, but it was a very passive-aggressive method of belittlement. The Atholton players were always mentioned by name or number and their name, the Raiders, was constantly stated. It was only after discussions with the Atholton athletic director, the Atholton principal, and I suspect some phone calls, that after halftime we were actually referenced by our team name and an occasional player name or number in a play —although those mentions were usually in a lowered voice. This from a school that was compelled to forfeit their first game due to getting caught having illegal practice this past spring.
This is a school that has an outstanding academic program. Tolerating and only changing inappropriate behavior when compelled to sends a message to the students that clearly conflicts with the HCPSS guiding principle of: "Promoting integrity, civility and global citizenship." Parents and visitors on the visiting side were very offended by the treatment our team received, and parents on the home team should be equally offended that poor sportsmanship and citizenship are being demonstrated and promoted at their children's school. All our children deserve better.
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