HILBERT, Wis. – The return of April Gehl to the basketball court Monday night for the Hilbert girls’ basketball team was surprisingly anti-climactic.
There was a few claps, one sign, no chants and definitely not a lot of hoopla. It was the antithesis to the type of reaction, both locally and nationally, that Gehl’s near five-game suspension drew the past few weeks.
There also were no comments from Gehl, who was instructed by school officials to not speak with USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin following the Wolves’ 57-42 nonconference victory over Omro.
Gehl, the Wolves’ leading scorer and rebounder, was suspended for 4.5 games Jan. 6, for her message on Twitter in response to a WIAA email concerning sportsmanship that was forwarded to member schools in late December.
Among the chants provided as examples in that email were “you can’t do that,” “fundamentals,” “air ball,” “There’s a net there,” along with the “scoreboard” cheer and “season’s over” chant during WIAA tournament play.
The email asked “student groups, school administrators and event managers” to take “immediate steps to correct this unsporting behavior.”
Gehl’s Tweet in response contained a curse word which the WIAA was able to discover. The state’s governing body of high school sports then emailed a snapshot of the tweet to Hilbert school officials, who suspended Gehl.
According to Gehl’s mother, Jill, the email had instructed Hilbert officials “to take care of this.” That is language that the WIAA has denied was in the email.
One thing is certain: Gehl’s suspension and the length of it generated discussion statewide of school codes and how it handles social media. Her story touched off a firestorm of reaction, with outlets such as Sports Illustrated, ESPN, Seventeen Magazine, Forbes, the United Kingdom’s Daily Mail as well as national and local radio, television and print media weighing in.
While Gehl was unable to speak Monday, her father Bob did talk to USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin.
Bob Gehl felt the whole Twitter situation was “blown out of proportion.” He did, however, feel his daughter’s near five-game suspension was unfair.
“I was just shocked at that,” he said. “I think change is coming. There’s going to be some big changes everywhere and, hopefully, some good comes out of this.”
April Gehl has declined numerous media requests the past several weeks, both locally and nationally, in an attempt to remain low-key, and Bob feels his daughter handled herself well in that respect.
“It put a lot of pressure on her,” he said. “She just kept it out of her mind and went on with schoolwork.”
Hilbert Superintendent Anthony Sweere and Assistant Principal and Athletic Director Stan Diedrich were unavailable for comment following the game.