Brown Responds to Chants at MC Games

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In response to several inappropriate cheers by Tam students at the boys’ varsity basketball game against Marin Catholic on January 15, Principal David Brown released a statement urging students to take ownership for their behavior and improve sportsmanship at future sporting events. The statement was emailed to teachers on the morning of Tuesday, January 19, and teachers were instructed to read and discuss the message with students.
“I think that the letter had a deeper impact because the teachers took the time to talk it over with students,” Brown said. “Student voice became part of the solution and students approached me afterwards and said it resulted in positive discussion.”
Although rumors have circulated that the damaged bleachers, which were broken during the game, caused the letter, Brown cited the student cheers that referenced the Catholic religion, insulted individual players, and included foul and bigoted language as reasons for writing the letter.
“I’ve never seen or heard anything as bad [as the behavior] at the Tam vs. MC game,” Brown said. Additionally, Brown received complaints from multiple parents who expressed disappointment about student behavior at the game.
Senior Sam Whittemore, who has played on the varsity team for the past two years, agreed with Brown, stating that some of the cheers were offensive and wrong. “I see a lot of younger kids that I help coach at the Tam summer camps at the game who view basketball as an inspiration,” Whittemore said. “I don’t want that inspiration to turn into disappointment when they listen to immature and inappropriate cheers.”
Senior Jessie Scarcella, who attended the game, characterized the atmosphere of the game as positive, but did say that some of the cheers were offensive. “People just wanted to have fun, but I do think some of the cheers went too far, especially with kids and parents there,” he said.
Brown believes that cheers such as “air ball” and “overrated” aren’t inappropriate, but don’t display great sportsmanship. “Some of the cheers weren’t horrible, but right up to the line,” Brown said. “The spirited atmosphere is not necessarily a bad thing, but when it is personally derisive and attacks MC and their religion, that crosses the line.”
Brown described the atmosphere of the gym as charged and exciting. “The whole place was packed that night with parents and some MC students,” Brown said. “I applauded the spirit and enthusiasm of the students.”
Whittemore described how the crowd’s energy positively affects his game. “It motivates me to play hard and gives me another reason to fight for a win,” Whittemore said. “The team definitely loves all the attention and love we [have gotten] at the games this year.”
Brown described a turning point in the atmosphere of the game that occurred when a MC player knocked a Tam player to the ground. “I heard a very foul expression after [this happened],” Brown said. “The atmosphere became more negative.”
Senior Walker Sapp, a player on the team who has sat out the season with an injury, was punched in the face by a student at Marin Catholic after the game concluded. “I was walking to my car [and]… when I went to unlock my car, I got shoved in the back by this MC kid,” Sapp said. “He said, ‘I heard you were talking trash about me.’ I shoved him back and told him that I had no idea what he was talking about. Next thing I know, he rears back and punches me square in the face.”
Sapp believes that the rowdy atmosphere in the gym, as well as the rivalry between Tam and Marin Catholic were part of the cause for this event. “I think the rivalry we have developed with MC, along with the student sections yelling back and forth… heightened everybody’s emotions and it was bound to come to a head at some point,” Sapp said.
“I would like [Tam students] to keep in mind that how they act reflects on our school and the type of athletic community that Tam fosters,” Whittemore said.
In the letter, Brown explained that he would discontinue spectator participation if the negative behavior continued. “I meant what I said,” Brown said. “But I was really glad that students took ownership.”
“I know a lot of the students… and they are all decent kids,” Brown said. “We all make mistakes. It’s how you respond when you make a mistake that’s more important than the fact that you made it.”