The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Sports

March 10, 2012

That offensive 'USA' chant

ENID — Fans and students love to become involved with their teams during games. While they can’t jump on the court or field to help their team, they can impact the ebb and flow of emotions in a highly competitive game through cheers, chants and sometimes even jeers.

Students can be overly zealous in their support or in their attempts to rattle the opposition. Sometimes players themselves engage in over-the-top tactics to rattle the opposition.

Playing sports while growing up, I remember players were especially brutal, not afraid to find the slightest shortcoming or physical difference and hammer an opposing player with jeers and taunts targeted at the player.

 It rarely had any effect, other than forcing a kid to develop a thick skin, and really it told the targeted player he was probably pretty good and that was the only way the opposition could try to get to him. The solution didn’t lie in being offended, the solution was to go out and win.

So, when did chanting “USA, USA, USA” at a sporting event become offensive? Apparently it officially became offensive on March 3 in San Antonio, Texas, when students of predominantly white Alamo Heights High School unleashed the “USA” chant after their team defeated neighboring Edison High School, a predominantly Hispanic school, in the Region IV-4A basketball championship game.

According to media accounts, the now-offensive “USA” chant lasted about five seconds in San Antonio during  last week’s trophy presentation before horrified school administrators ended the offending chant.

  Reports indicated both white and Hispanic students from Alamo Heights engaged in the cheer. It probably was a bit misplaced,  maybe even xenophobic.  But mostly, it was a bunch of kids acting like kids. The matter should have died there. But in today’s society, too many people are just looking to be offended and aggrieved and cannot let a simple matter pass.

As if on cue, the San Antonio Independent School District filed a formal complaint with the University Interscholastic League, akin to the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association, over the chant. Others have even gone so far as to urge the “USA” chant be barred.

This is not the first time this issue has arisen in San Antonio. Last season, the chant caused controversy during a game between two other schools, but in that case the chant went on throughout the game as opposed to the five-second postgame outburst by the Alamo Heights students.

Alamo Heights dealt with the students involved in the March 3 incident and suspended them from attending this past Thursday’s game, which seems a little harsh for a momentary flash of patriotism, however misplaced.

School superintendent Dr. Kevin Brown has apologized profusely for the incident and recently wrote a letter to Alamo Heights parents in the wake of the uproar and media attention to the matter.

“We live in the best country in the world, and cheering for our country should be celebrated,” read a portion of  Brown’s letter. “However, cheering for our country should be done for patriotic reasons, not to offend other Americans.”  Brown went on in his letter to relate how the school is now receiving “hateful phone calls” calling the school and its students both anti-American and racist.

Dr. Brown is partially right. We do live in the best country in the world, but sadly, we have also become a nation of those choosing to be perpetually offended. It’s time to toughen up.

Ruthenberg is sports editor at the News & Eagle. Contact him at daver@enidnews.com.

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