The most memorable moment from the 2017 WIAA state girls basketball tournament at the Resch Center turned out to be one that wasn’t allowed to take place.
After Appleton North capped a perfect season with a 49-34 victory over De Pere on Saturday in the Division 1 state championship game, the Lightning players were awarded their individual medals and the team trophy following the completion of what was the final game of the tournament.
Junior Sydney Levy then stepped off the awards platform and opened her arms to receive a hug from her younger brother, Jaylen, on the corner of the court.
However, WIAA associate director Deb Hauser stepped between the siblings and prevented the celebratory moment from taking place.
The sequence was captured on video and posted to Twitter by Nic Levy at his account @CoachNicLevy later that night with the following description, “@wiaawistate didn’t let Jaylen give his sister, Syd, a hug after winning the STATE! He gets excited to hug her after EVERY game. He cried.”
Nic Levy (@CoachNicLevy) March 12, 2017
As of early Monday afternoon, the tweet had received over 1,800 retweets and more than 5,400 likes. It also received several responses that were critical of how the WIAA handled the matter.
The WIAA issued a statement on Monday regarding what happened in Levy’s video post on social media.
The statement included the following explanation, “For the safety of all involved, we keep spectators off the playing surface.” The statement also included, “The WIAA has reached out to the family to express its regrets for any distress they may have experienced.”
Below is the WIAA’s complete statement regarding Levy’s video post on social media.
“Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association acknowledges that the short video clip that was released on social media Sunday may be seen by the casual observer as insensitive.
In the celebratory situations following a State championship, it is not possible for the WIAA to know the individual traditions and rituals of all the schools, teams, families and players involved.
For the safety of all involved, we keep spectators off the playing surface. As an organization that runs large events on a regular basis, our focus is always on the safety and “what if’ situations that can evolve quickly and cause potential harm to innocent bystanders.
When the WIAA staff receives advanced requests regarding special family situations or needs, we do our best to accommodate if and when possible.
The WIAA has reached out to the family to express its regrets for any distress they may have experienced.
The membership of the WIAA oversees interscholastic athletic programs for 511 senior high schools and 37 junior high/middle level schools in its membership. It sponsors 27 championship tournament series for boys and girls in 2016-17. For more information, please contact the WIAA office at (715) 344-8580.”