By Adam Strunk
Police had to kick out one man, call for backup and secretly escort referees out of the gymnasium as tensions at a Newton High School Basketball game threatened to boil over Tuesday night.
School Resource Officer Brian Salmans said the Newton audience’s perception of bad officiating motivated them to scream at the officials on court.
The game saw six technical fouls on Newton in the game against Salina Central 64-58. The Newton Head Coach, Andy Preston was ejected with two technical fouls himself.
“Our section was going crazy,” Salmans said.
Salmans said the yelling from the crowd was so bad that one referee quit the game and the contest had to be finished with two instead of three officials.
“He basically said ‘The heck with this, I’m done,’ and left the court and didn’t come back,” Salmans said.
In the second half, Salmans said he found himself focusing on the parents at the game.
“We thought how are we going to control our kids if we can’t get our parents under control.”
At one point, Salmans said a parent of a player left the audience to walk onto the court and yell at the officials.
Salmans said police as well as school administration removed him from the game.
Salmans also called for police backup during the game worried that a disturbance would happen during or afterwards and in all five police officers responded to keep the peace.
At the end of the game officers made sure the officials got out of the gym without incident.
“We had to escort the refs out and we did so secretly.”
According to Police Lt. Scott Powell police, took no action against the fan who walked out onto the court.
Powell said the man was only yelling and not threatening the referees.
“It was just very, very poor sportsmanship, and that isn’t a criminal matter,” he said.
Superintendent Deb Hamm said the district was weighing options on an appropriate action against the parent who went onto the court.
“In all situations whenever fans do not follow the guidelines if or the expectations we have the authority to ask them not to come again,” she said. “Fans need to be aware of that.”
Hamm said no matter how bad fans perceive calls the officials make, the behavior displayed by some at the game was not appropriate.
“I’m sorry, but there is a process to go through and certainly they can register their concerns for KSHAA and that association can deal with the officials and officiating in appropriate ways,” she said.
“The officials are doing the best they can in the moment. It’s a human thing, are they going to make mistakes? Probably? But at the same time we have to be respectful and not be threatening or harassing.”
Hamm said the school district works through the league to get officials for games, but those officials are becoming fewer and fewer in number.
“Part of the reason it’s hard to get them to officiate are the harassment of fans,” she said. “In general high schools are finding it more and more difficult to get new officials and keep officials.”
Hamm asked that attendants of future Newton games practice good sportsmanship.
“I know it’s hard when it’s your kid and they’re out there playing their heart out and the calls aren’t good,” she said. “ I’ve been there as a parent. But we need everyone to remember it’s a high school game and getting into an altercation or creating the potential to harm students or others, that’s not something we should be striving for or the message we should be sending in our community or other communities that come here to play ball.”