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Punishment too harsh for crime

03/31/2014, 10:30am PDT
By Craig Malveaux

New Hampshire senior is stripped of the Player of the Year award

Pat Welch of Pembroke Academy. John Tully / Concord Monitor

Via Twitter, Pembroke Academy basketball player Pat Welch issued a candid message to a rival New Hampshire high school.

“Shout out to Portsmouth, you may have won during the regular season ... But we won the ship you suck #(expletive)yourself.”

Upon discovering the tweet, which the senior guard deleted, the New Hampshire Basketball Coaches Organization rescinded Welch’s Division II Player of the Year award.

“Since that time, it has come to the NHBCO executive board’s attention that Pat Welch displayed flagrant un-sportsmanlike behavior,” the organization said in a statement.

“... It is with great sadness that this committee has to act on this situation, but we strive to uphold the tenet that this award is not based solely on a basketball player’s ability but also on that player’s character and demonstrated sportsmanship.”

Matt Alosa condemned the decision.

“I don’t believe the punishment fits the crime,” the Pembroke Academy coach told the New Hampshire Union Leader newspaper.

“They basically took away Pat’s body of work this season because of a tweet that ended up online for 15 minutes. I don’t like and don’t condone what was written in that tweet.”

I agree.

No matter how egregious, people should have the freedom to say or tweet what they please within the confines of the First Amendment, including Welch.

In addition, the 17-year-old apologized — in person — to the Portsmouth coach and administrators.

Without question, Welch used poor judgment and poor language, not to mention displayed poor sportsmanship.

However, it wasn’t racial, libelous or a threat of physical harm.

It speaks volumes alone about Welch and deserves a course of action/discipline. But there’s no need to treat him like Hester Prynne from the Nathaniel Hawthorne novel “The Scarlet Letter” and place him on a scaffold before the entire community, subjecting him to public humiliation.

He’s a teenager, and teenagers make mistakes. Explain to Welch the error of his ways and teach him how to be a better person moving forward.

“It’s a teaching moment. You shouldn’t throw him under a bus,” said a local basketball coach, who served on the committee that selected the all-section basketball players.

“I wouldn’t personally vote to strip him of an award unless there are bylaws or regulations specifically prohibiting a student from using specific language on their social media accounts or unless he broke a rule or law or was detrimental to society. He didn’t tweet that he wanted to physically harm any members of the team, commit crimes against them or anything like that. So, you figure out other ways to discipline him. Besides, are we policing Twitter, now?”

Welch made a grave mistake. And, whether the committee’s decision was right or wrong, the kid paid dearly for it.

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