Four teams came together and became one in response to a Billings radio made an online post suggesting that there should be separate a Native American basketball tournament. On Wednesday night, Box Elder, the Class C State boys champions, along with Heart Butte, Power and Belt met at the middle of the court joining forces to support one another after the controversial statements. Several members from the Box Elder boys basketball team had a response regarding their stand against discrimination.
"Whether it's an Indian team or a non-native team that we're here to compete with each other and challenge each other and at the end of the day, we're going to shake hands and be friends," said Box Elder head basketball coach Jeremy MacDonald.
"When we had all four teams out here, all four coaches, all four coaching staffs and just everybody just out here united. That's what it's all about," said Box Elder athletic director Neal Rosette Jr.
"It was really nice. It was something different that you usually see around. In the beginning of the game, it made me feel really good and play good and I think it helped us come together as a community in Montana. Us Montanans, " said senior shooting guard Petey Azure Jr.
Montana High School Association Response from Executive Director Mark Beckman:
As stated in the MHSA Handbook, the MHSA and its 179 member schools fully support the concept of equal opportunity for the youth of the State of Montana. There will be no discrimination with regard to gender, religion, race or ethnic origin in activities sponsored by the Association.
The Montana High School Association has received numerous calls and emails in response to comments and videos posted on various websites after the 2017 district basketball tournaments. In particular, individuals are expressing concern over recent online postings which allege that several fans of Native American teams have contributed to an undesirable environment at district tournaments. Certain online postings have further expressed the opinion that Native American teams should have a separate tournament from other member schools.
The MHSA has not received any concerns from the tournament managers of the recently held district tournaments on crowd issues from this past weekend. Also, district and divisional tournament sites are determined by the schools in those districts and divisions. The MHSA has not had any school, community, or facility express to our office that they wouldn’t host a tournament because Native American schools were participating.
The MHSA is a member-based entity which strives to exemplify inclusion, opportunity and tolerance in all aspects of student activities, regardless of the level of participation or the location of the events.
The MHSA will not exclude or discriminate against any participants or their fans, and further is concerned with the intolerance expressed through certain online postings and social media. Member schools, staff and the Executive Board will continue to address any and all sportsmanship issues in a cooperative and collegial manner with the shared goal of eliminating bias from any event at any level. Negative fan behavior or other crowd control incidents will be addressed with the commensurate level of response.