Public League Not So Public Now

Administrators closing games to rival fans to prevent violence

Chicago's Public League, the group of 100-plus city high schools that compete for the city's high school basketball championship, has had its fair share of violence in the past, but last week -- with the shooting of North Lawndale forward Jermaine Winfield and a fight at a Simeon-Bogan -- a series of isolated incidents didn't seem so isolated. Now, the city is taking draconian measures to prevent such violence:

•All varsity boys basketball games will begin at 4 p.m.

•Fans from the visiting team will not be allowed to attend.

•In some cases in which there has been a history of trouble between schools, no fans will be allowed to attend the game.

In other words, there will be some Public League games with only a home fan base watching, while the other half of the gym is presumably empty. And that's nothing compared to the eerie sight players will see if their schools have a history of trouble -- empty bleachers all around, more desolate than a summer AAU game. Weird.

Of course, there are some social implications here, one of which is that people who aren't causing trouble are now robbed of their ability to watch high school basketball. What about parents with kids on the team? What about a kid's best friends, who weren't in the troublemaking minority? Chicago Public Schools face a variety of challenges, so it's hard to be too critical here, but isn't there a way to deal with such incidents fairly? Is punishing an entire fanbase appropriate?

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