Should sports teams be punished for their fans' bad behavior?

Johnson City Press • Updated Jun 24, 2018 at 4:40 PM

Last weekend, a children’s softball game in Kingsport devolved into an unscheduled fighting event when fans watching two North Carolina teams started throwing punches after exchanging vulgarities.

As the Kingsport Times News’ Matthew Lane reported, about a half-dozen people joined in the melee in the stands, all of them caught on video shared freely on the internet.

None of the parents and fans were injured or charged by police, but both teams were suspended from the USA Softball sponsored tournament and sent home before playing in the next round. The two 12 and under teams were also banned from future tournaments while the sanctioning body investigates the incident.

“We run a very clean organization, we run good tournaments, but unfortunately it happened on our dime and we don’t take things like this lightly,” USA Softball regional director Tina Gale told the Times News. “We would never condone that kind of conduct.”

Fights at youth sporting events aren’t very common, but they are increasing in frequency, according to national sports associations. More commonly, parents and fans become verbally abusive toward officials, players and opposing teams’ fans.

The issue has gotten so bad that some sports organizers have instituted silent stands policies, where spectating parents aren’t allowed to raise their voices, not even for cheering.

Others require parents to attend sportsmanship seminars and sign codes of ethics before their children can play.

Where those policies have been implemented, organizers report more civil children’s games, where kids aren’t exposed to the negative behaviors of their parents that can bubble to the surface when tensions run high.

Some, however, say suspending teams for unruly fans goes a step to far. The children playing last week worked hard to advance in the tournament, and were not responsible for the brawl, but were punished for it anyway.

That’s why we want to hear from you. Should sports teams be punished for their fans’ bad behavior?

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