2012 February 13

In a cautionary tale, American high school basketball has just had a minor infringement of rules become a major national debating point, all because of the colour of some T-shirts. It’s Make-A-Wish week in the USA and loads of people are taking part in charitable fundraising, just as we do here for Red Nose Day or Children In Need. At Burke High School (Nebraska) the team decided to wear pink – the Make-A-Wish colour – instead of the classic white home uniform and to auction off the uniform tops afterwards to raise funds for the charity. Their competitors, Columbus Discoverers, wore red away tops.

At half-time, one of the Columbus management team raised a formal complaint, saying that the uniform worn by Burke did not comply with league rules and no advance warning of a uniform change had been given. As a result, a technical foul was given against the home team who were one point in the lead at the half time break.

It’s the kind of question that’s arising a lot in sport at present – what’s honourable, what’s acceptable, when are rules enforced and when not? Is it okay not to shake hands with another player? Is it okay to change uniform clothing for a good cause without consulting others involved? What kind of language is acceptable in the heat of the moment during a sporting crisis?

Basically, the basketball officials had no choice but to award the foul once the matter was brought to their attention and the final result, 62-47 to Columbus, made it really insignificant that they’d pointed out the infringement. But it’s worth always bearing in mind, whether you play for a local 5-a-side football team that wears jerseys and one day decides to move to V-necked T-shirts or organise vests for a local running club, that there are often rules about sports clothing that need to be understood and observed and raising money for charity is not considered an adequate reason for breaking them.

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