bare chests ban is not necessary

The sportsmanship committee of the WIAA is recommending a ban against fans with bare or painted chests from indoor games. The story is all over the internet, including our local TV station, Fox 11 news, who ran the story along with a clip of some boys from West De Pere High School who had painted their bodies at a basketball game. These same boys also painted their bodies to show support for the school’s dance team at several competitions this past year.

West De Pere High School students with painted bodies at the state dance competition in Feb 2008I can’t believe they’re wasting their time on such a proposal. I’ve got several problems with it.

  1. I was at a number of high school dance competitions this past season where 5 or 6 boys painted their bodies to match the girls’ uniforms. It was fantastic! They showed so much support in a sport that doesn’t get much attendance from the student body. And when the dancers see this, it has a real impact on their spirit and their level of performance. These boys also did the same thing at a couple of basketball games, showing great support and school spirit.
  2. According to Mike Blackburn, NIAAA executive director, “Wisconsin’s proposed ban could be the first in the country. Nationally, bare-chested fans have not been a big problem at high school games”. Exactly. What is the real problem that we’re trying to solve here?
  3. Tom Shafranski, WIAA assistant director said, “High school students can’t bare their chests in class, so there’s no reason for them to do it at indoor sporting events.” Are you serious? That’s your reasoning? Many schools don’t allow their students to stand up and cheer in class either, so perhaps we should ban cheering from indoor sports. Come on. You need to find a better reason than this.
  4. According to Todd Clark, WIAA sportsmanship committee coordinator, “some people find such exposure offensive.” Oh geez. If someone sees a boy or a man with no shirt on and they don’t like it, tough. It’s not illegal. Get over it.
  5. Clark also said, “It’s usually only a handful of young men, but they draw a lot of attention.” Yeah, and what? A handful of young men showing their support and drawing attention is wrong? Think about it. If you make them wear shirts, do you really think the same “handful of young men” won’t do something else that draws attention? If drawing attention is what you think is wrong, then I’m telling you right now, this ban won’t fix it.
  6. The effort put in by these boys to paint their bodies and support their teams is admirable. They should be commended, not reprimanded.

The interesting aspect of this issue for us here in the West De Pere School District is that the boys that do it have done it mostly at dance competitions. Dance competitions in Wisconsin are sanctioned by the WACPC, not WIAA. So it will be interesting to see if WACPC follows suit, or continues to allow the support.

If the WIAA is going to propose such a ban, they need to have good reason. They need to have an actual problem that they’re trying to solve. So far, the reasons stated are baseless. I can’t wait to see the painted guys again at the dance competitions next season.

a student paints his body to match a dancer's uniform