The most prominent pro athlete in Wisconsin — Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers — has weighed in on the controversy surrounding the sportsmanship policy of the Wisconsin Interscholastic Activities Association.
In an interview with ESPN.com, Rodgers said he led the chants at his high school in Chico, Calif., when he wasn’t playing. Rodgers played basketball for a time before concentrating solely on football.
While Rodgers said last week that there is no place for racist or homophobic language, but decried the abolition of chants such as “scoreboard,” “air ball” and “fundamentals.” He then proceeded to clap out “fun-da-men-tals” in front of his locker, according to ESPN.com’s Jason Wilde.
“I think we’re, as a society, dying a little bit each day if we’re not only dumbing down our masses but we’re also limiting the things that we can say,” Rodgers said in the interview. ” ‘Air ball’ and ‘scoreboard,’ from a chant standpoint, in 2001 when I was in the stands watching my high school basketball team, that’s like the ground floor of stuff we would say. …
“I don’t think that [high school competition] warrants censorship. What are we telling our kids, that freedom of speech doesn’t exist? And any type of negative comment, you’re going to get somebody in trouble for? I just don’t agree with that.”
Meanwhile, the WIAA says that it has not implemented any new sportsmanship policies.
In an email sent late last week to the superintendents, principals and athletic directors of member schools, the association apologized for any “distress or dissatisfaction” from the email sent by Todd Clark on Dec. 22. The association said the intent has been “misunderstood.”
The WIAA said it was just a reminder of the rules that have been on the books since 2005 in advance of the many holiday basketball tournaments around the region.
The state’s sponsorship committee is scheduled to meet in April 8 and the group asked members to provide input to help determine whether new policies are needed.
Wade Labecki, the deputy director of the WIAA, told NPR that, “We’re going to revisit whether ‘Air ball’ is real negative. It’s probably not as bad as long as you don’t do it every time the kid touches the ball.”