Tweet about WIAA earns suspension for athlete

Ricardo Arguello
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The tumultuous world of social media has hit home for Hilbert High School athlete April Gehl.

The three-sport star and one of the top scorers for the Wolves’ girls’ basketball team was informed by Hilbert athletic director Stan Diedrich on Wednesday that she would be suspended for five games during the current winter season due to a tweet that Gehl posted on Twitter early Monday morning concerning the WIAA.

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“I couldn’t believe it,” Gehl said. “I was like, ‘Really? For tweeting my opinion?’ I thought it was ridiculous.”

April Gehl, a three-sport star at Hilbert  High School, was suspended for five basketball games for a tweet directed at the WIAA.

Gehl’s tweet, which contained profanity directed toward the WIAA, was her off-the-cuff response to a WIAA email that took students to task for an increasing number of student-section chants at sporting events that mock the opposing team or school.

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The email, from director of communication Todd Clark, concerns “sportsmanship” and what the WIAA feels is an increase in the “amount of chants by student sections directed at opponents and/or opponents’ supporters that are clearly intended to disrespect.”

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Included in the WIAA email were examples such as “You can’t do that,” “Fundamentals,” “Air ball,” “There’s a net there,” “Sieve,” “We can’t hear you,” the “scoreboard” cheer and “season’s over” during tournament play.

That email was sent to member schools in December. It was forwarded by Hilbert school officials earlier this week to the school’s students and was also in their daily announcements on Monday, according to April Gehl.

Jill Gehl, April's mother, said the WIAA sent Diedrich a snapshot of Gehl’s tweet with limited direction other than to “please take care of it.”

Diedrich was reached Friday morning about the suspension, but was unable to give specifics.

“I can tell you that the WIAA contacted me with information,” Diedrich said. “Once given the information, we dealt with the matter in accordance with board policy.”

Clark said in an email Friday to Post-Crescent Media that April Gehl's tweet was brought to the attention of the WIAA. The school was then informed.

"To be clear, there was no language in our correspondence with the school that stated to 'take care of this,'" Clark said. "That determination is for the member school to address. But these issues, like other sportsmanship issues brought to our attention, are shared with our members for their awareness."

According to Jill Gehl, that school policy includes a section on inappropriate language, which her daughter was ultimately punished for.

“My mom asked to see the email and (Diedrich) showed it to her,” April said. “Because it came directly from the WIAA, they felt they had to do something, and that’s why I got punished that way.”

Hilbert is 7-3 this season and one of the top teams in Division 5, receiving a vote in last week’s Associated Press rankings.

April Gehl, a 5-foot-10 senior forward, is the Wolves’ leader in points scored (15.8 average per game) and rebounds (5.5). She begins serving her suspension today against Mishicot.

She will also miss games against Oostburg (Jan. 12), Reedsville (Jan. 15), Manitowoc Lutheran (Jan. 21) and Omro (Jan. 25).

April, an honor student with a 3.5 GPA, said she hasn’t deleted the tweet because she “was already punished for it,” but does regret sending it out.

“I mean, I never thought it would get me in trouble like that,” she said.

The Gehl family doesn’t plan on appealing the suspension.

The case is an example of the quagmire that social media can be and the fine line that student athletes must walk on Twitter, Facebook and other outlets.

“I was thinking, ‘How did they get it so quickly?’” Jill Gehl said of the WIAA seeing her daughter's tweet. “Sure, what she said wasn’t the right words and wasn’t the best thing to do. I wasn’t real upset with her because there have been a lot more worse things said on Facebook and Twitter to specific people. This to me was more of a general response to an organization per se, not an individual. So, sure, I’m upset with it. But we just have to deal with the consequences.”

Ricardo Arguello: 920-993-1000, ext. 558, or; on Twitter @PCRicardo


Here’s the content of the WIAA email sent by the organization’s director of communications Todd Clark to state high school officials late last month concerning “sportsmanship.”

Seasons Greetings,

I hope everyone has a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, as well as the opportunity to take a short breather.

Heading into the new year with the holiday tournaments and conference schedules ramping up, and the winter sports Tournament Series soon to follow, we want to identify a point of emphasis for sportsmanship this season.

As we reviewed the fall tournaments and the sportsmanship evaluations and observations, we want to address concerns with a noticeable increase in the amount of chants by student sections directed at opponents and/or opponents’ supporters that are clearly intended to taunt or disrespect.

Not wanting to restrict creativity or enjoyment, an enthusiastic and boisterous display of support for a school’s team is welcomed and encouraged at interscholastic events when directed in a positive manner. However, any action directed at opposing teams or their spectators with the intent to taunt, disrespect, distract or entice an unsporting behavior in response in not acceptable sportsmanship. Student groups, school administrators and event managers should take immediate steps to correct this unsporting behavior.

Some specific examples of unsporting behavior by student groups including chants directed at opposing participants and/or fans. Among the chants that have been heard at recent high school sporting events are: “You can’t do that,” “Fundamentals,” “Air ball,” “There’s a net there,” “Sieve,” “We can’t hear you,” The “scoreboard” cheer, and “Season’s over” during tournament series play.

Thanks for your assistance!

- Email provided by local high school athletic directors

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