Let's try out a few thoughts on the concept of "FAIRNESS".

"Hey, life isn't fair"  --all parents everywhere.

"Win or lose, do it fairly." –Knute Rockne

"Fairness is what justice really is." –Potter Stewart

"These men ask for just the same thing, fairness, and fairness only. This, so far as in my power, they, and all others, shall have." –Abraham Lincoln

How do you define fairness?   Is it " impartial and just treatment or behavior without favoritism or discrimination"?

Another way to look at fairness might be -- Let the Punishment Fit the Crime.

So what's the crime?  In this case yelling racial slurs and acting in a racist manner at a high school girl's basketball game in Connell between Connell and Zillah a couple of weeks ago.

By now you have probably heard the story about the action of a couple of fans from Connell insulting some Black players on the Zillah team.

KREM News from Spokane posted, "In a video posted to YouTube, students can be heard calling Black players racial slurs. According to the district, near the end of the game, the North Franklin Athletic Director was made aware of the remarks and gestures from Connell students in the bleachers. The athletic director informed the superintendent who directed the high school administrative team to begin an immediate investigation, including interviews, gathering of statements and review of game film and social media."

The Superintendent's reaction was “Any show of racism is inexcusable and will not be tolerated in our district" and that certainly is the right response and later the South Central Athletic Conference issued sanctions against the North Franklin School District.

But was that the right response?  That's where my (and many others) question about the nature of "fairness" arises.

The SCAC League voted to impose the following sanctions:

  1. Both Connell Basketball seasons will end on June 5th. Neither team will be allowed to play in the post-season.
  2. The SCAC League Championship Wrestling event that was to be held at Connell has been removed and will now take place in Wapato.
  3. Connell fans, parents and students, will no longer be allowed at ANY SCAC athletic event starting May 26. This ban will last until June 12.

Does that sound "fair"?  Does the punishment fit the crime?  The crime was horrible.  There is no excuse for behavior shown by a few fans and the actions of a few could create scars for a lifetime. Maybe the secondary lesson about fairness is for the young victims who received an unfortunate dose of "Life isn't fair."  Clearly for a moment in time it wasn't.

But what is the lesson for all the other better behaved fans, for the Connell players-both boys and girls, and their parents and families.  They did nothing wrong. Do they deserve the sanctions placed on them by the league?  Was the punishment fair?

Fairness calls for us to punish the guilty and protect the innocent.  Did that happen in this case?  If fairness is " impartial and just treatment or behavior without favoritism or discrimination".  Was there a sort of reverse discrimination that occurred because the "crime" was racism?

Here's what I worry may have happened.

Is it possible, that in this time of wokeness, critical race theory, black lives matter and the national conversation on racism, that the league went too far in trying to send a message that they won't tolerate any kind of racism? -- A virtue signal by way of overreacting? The teams and the town don't deserve the black eye and an over reaction in punishment sends the wrong message.  It paints the town and team with the same guilty brush and allows the real perpetrators to blend into the crowd without experiencing the weight of justice that should be theirs alone. What lesson is being taught?

These people are educators.  This is a teachable moment.  This is real life as the classroom. No time for a knee jerk reaction with the world looking in.  The out of control fans were in the wrong.  Now the league is too.   At least Connell High School Athletic Director Stephen Pyeatt  got it right with his apology.

“I want to take this time to apologize for the racist actions that transpired while I was in charge of the girls basketball game on May 22, 2021,” Pyeatt wrote. “I know that what happened has caused an immense amount of pain to you as a player, coach, fan, family member, and community member, and I am deeply sorry. You did not deserve this in any way, and no one should ever have to be subjected to what happened. I am sorry.”

What do you think?  Does the punishment fit the crime? Share your thoughts.