WESTFIELD, Indiana — A girls travel basketball game took a violent turn when a midcourt brawl broke out among a referee, player and several spectators that ended with a team being ejected from the tournament.
“Yes, it was an unfortunate incident that we had to address this weekend,” Evan Suttner, president of the Pacers Athletic Center told IndyStar in an email Thursday.
The altercation occurred over the weekend at the Prime Midwest Event at the Pacers Athletic Center during a game between Baylor Basketball and Indiana Elite. Baylor trailed 34-12 with 16 seconds left in the first quarter when its coach began arguing with the referee over a call.
A technical foul was called on Baylor and the coach picked up her bag to leave the game. Her players and other team staff moved to leave the court as well.
Meanwhile, the referee continued to make his case with the team as a spectator appeared within feet of the referee, taking video in the referee’s face.
It’s unclear whether the spectator said anything, but the video shows the referee punching the spectator, which prompts a Baylor player to come at the ref, throwing punches. Another spectator joins to attack the referee, who is then flipped and lands on the court as the player continues to punch him.
Video of the altercation is circulating on social media and inaccurately says the brawl happened at the Fishers fieldhouse. Suttner confirmed it was at the Pacers Athletic Center.
IndyStar reached out to Westfield police and was told Thursday morning they were looking into it.
“The event staff removed the involved parties from the remainder of the tournament and will not welcome them back to future events,” management at Pacers Athletic Center said in a statement.
IndyStar reached out to the Baylor team for comment but did not hear back.
The center said in a statement: “We are disappointed that this altercation happened, as we strive to provide a great experience for families.” The center’s statement added that the altercation happened during “a third-party event company’s tournament that was hosted in our building.”
The tournament was put on by Exposure Basketball, which did not return IndyStar requests for comment.
Pacers Athletic Center said in its statement: “We take the safety of our staff, referees, players and spectators seriously… and there is no place for this kind of behavior in youth sports.”
Disturbances in travel sports are common
Bad behavior is not unusual. Nearly 76% of parents say they have at some time felt uncomfortable because of other parents’ behavior at a game, according to the Parents Association for Youth Sports.
IU’s Lynn Jamieson has studied the effects of a trend that she says is often prompted by pressure for college scholarships.
“When your life revolves around the sport and competition, the stress and frustration can manifest itself in the player and parents,” said Jamieson, with IU’s School of Public Health, who researches violence in sports.
Jamieson offers these tips and resources to minimize the occurrence of violence in the bleachers and on the playing field:
>> Verbal abuse can be worse than physical abuse when it comes from coaches, parents or other players. It also can accelerate physical violence. To address this, “silent” matches are held across the country. During these special athletic events, fans can only applaud — no yelling or commenting on the game is permitted.
>> Remove children from situations where there are abusive patterns. A bad experience can have a long-term effect on how youth view sports.
>> Keep the family’s sporting activities affordable for the family.
>> Be vigilant about unsportsmanlike behavior — and don’t take it. Jamieson encourages people to report unsportsmanlike behavior and to become aware of relevant codes of conduct and solutions employed by other communities. This can include lobbying community leaders for change.