The outrage about a high school basketball video containing alleged flagrant fouls posted to YouTube continues to grow, after two national websites linked to it Thursday.
Yahoo! Sports and Deadspin, a tabloid sports website, highlighted the video, which shows two Connell players fouling Cowiche’s Highland High School players Dec. 22.
While commentators around the internet are calling for both players to be suspended, the coach to be fired and the team to be disbanded, North Franklin School District officials said they already have handled the matter internally.
“We saw the video, we worked with Highland and felt we did everything right,” Superintendent Gregg Taylor told the Herald on Thursday. “We met with the team and the coaches and the district officials, and made sure everyone knew what we needed to do to change our sportsmanship, and how we should act on and off the floor and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
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Taylor first learned of the video Dec. 28 after it was posted by Michael Christenson of Yakima, whose nephew plays for Highland.
Christenson put the video on YouTube and tweeted a link to Mid-Columbia and national media outlets, such as ESPN, sports commentator Jim Rome and TNT National Basketball Association analysts.
The video has been viewed so many times, it has frozen YouTube's view counter.
Christenson told the Tri-City Herald on Wednesday that he wasn’t expecting the video to go viral.
On Thursday, Taylor said, “The hard part with all of this is that it happened two weeks ago. We played a couple of games at the SunDome after the Highland game ... then the video went viral and everyone is looking at it and wanting us to go back and do something different.”
Highland athletic director Chad Seely said Thursday that the school is not demanding anything of Connell as far as an apology is concerned.
Seely also was critical of the referees for allowing the situation to escalate.
“The bottom line for me is that the officials need to take control of the game,” Seely said. “I’m not going to comment on players or coaches from another school. I’ve discussed with my coaching staff and administration that the officials need to take control of the game and keep control.
“Then a lot of what has gone nationwide and viral would not be there,” he said.
Taylor said the school district doesn’t plan on handing down any more discipline.
“We feel like it is done with,” he said. “It was handled about two weeks ago. We felt like we handled it really well. We are not excusing it.”
There are discussions about whether the two Connell players, Cole Vanderbilt and Kennan VanHollebeke, will continue playing this season, as well as how to handle the vitriolic attacks by online commentators. The school district and the Herald also have received numerous calls from across the country from people outraged by the video.
“We are very concerned about our students and their welfare,” Taylor said, “and making sure they are protected through this situation.”
Connell plays at Columbia-Burbank at 7:30 p.m. today, and both schools are hoping for nothing more than a high school basketball game to break out.
“Believe it or not, there hasn’t been a whole lot of talk about it around here,” said Burbank athletic director Jay Aune. “Our kids have looked at it, of course, but we’ve played Connell quite a few times over the years. It is somewhat of a rivalry game. I don’t think the kids are overly stressed out anymore than they normally would be.
“We’re not going to not take the ball to the basket because they might get knocked down. We have enough faith in the officials that they will take care of that.”
The referees also have come under fire because of the video. Chris Manalopoulos, head of the Tri-Cities Sports Officials Association boys chapter, declined to talk about the game and referred questions to Todd Stordahl of the Washington Officials Association. Stordahl could not be reached.
The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association, which oversees all high school activities and athletics, released a statement Thursday saying that it was working with both schools and the referee association on the situation.
“The WIAA has the utmost concern for the safety of the student-athletes and the welfare of the game,” the statement said.
Conor Laffey, the WIAA sports and activities information manager, would not discuss what they are talking about or what may come from the discussions. He said there is no timeline for a decision.
-- Craig Craker: 582-1509; firstname.lastname@example.org