Morning Sun

Prep athletes deal with abusive fan behavior more often these days

- By Roman Stubbs

As they competed in a high school basketball game in May, Talani Oliver and her teammate and younger sister, Mia Hicks-oliver, heard someone in the crowd yell a racist epithet in their direction. Neither said anything to the crowd.

At another point in the game, the Oliver sisters, who are Black and play for their local high school team in Zillah, Wash., heard fans from the opposing student section making monkey noises and gestures.

It didn’t stop as the girls tried to make their way to the team’s bus after the game, they later told their mother, who was not in attendance. When Lauria Oliver arrived to pick her daughters up, she noticed many of their teammates crying. She could see the devastatio­n on her daughters’ faces.

“It really did change a lot of things. It changed them as people,” said Lauria Oliver, who is White. “It was almost like we were in a Twilight Zone. You read about this happening in other places, but until it happens to you … you really don’t know how you’re going to feel.”

Tough love or verbal abuse? For coaches and parents, the new lines are hard to define.

Since the return of spectators to high school sporting events following the pandemic shutdown, many young athletes across the country have experience­d similar hate speech and other abuse. School officials have reported problemati­c fan behavior ranging from students using foul language, making obscene gestures, throwing objects and physically

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