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Cheering broke rules: Baker athletic group

Darrell Greer
Northern News Services

Baker Lake (Apr 17/06) - A group of parents in Baker Lake are outraged after their kids were asked to apologize for the way they cheered a visiting hockey team during the Blizzard Bantam tournament earlier this month.

Four members of the Baker Lake Youth Athletics Association (BLYAA) cheered for Rankin Inlet during the championship game between Rankin and Baker.

The four cheered loudly every time Rankin scored or threw a big body check, and every time Baker was penalized.

The incident led to a letter from the BLYAA asking them to apologize to the bantams, or risk suspension from athletic activities.

The four are George Rumbolt, Neal Utatnaaq, Cameron Piryuaq and Tobias Uqayuittuq.

Rumbolt's mother, Ellen, said students should be allowed to cheer for whichever team they wish.

She said the boys didn't use profane language or insult any players.

"The letter really hurt because of the threat to suspend their privileges as athletes for cheering against the home team," said Ellen.

"I cheered and clapped my hands when a Baker player checked a Rankin player, but that doesn't mean I hate players from Rankin."

Baker Lake Minor Hockey Association president Jim Kreuger said it was never the intention of either association to dictate who Baker athletes can cheer for.

He said the four got carried away and acted in a manner contrary to the association's code of fair play.

"When we were scored upon, that's cheering for the other side and that's fine," said Kreuger. "But cheering a mistake or the referee's call against us is a contravention of our fair play code."

Katolic Mautaritnaaq has pulled her son, Utatnaaq, and his younger brother out of school due to harassment over the incident.

"This has them feeling really uncomfortable, uneasy and embarrassed.

"Since this happened, Neal has been harassed verbally and my other son, who wasn't involved in the incident at all, has also been harassed.

Ellen is also concerned about the mood of the community in regards to the incident.

She said the fact athletic association president Bill Olson is principal of her son's school, and other board members teach there, also has her worried.

"I'm Inuk and my husband is qablunaaq, so I'm wondering how my boy is going to be treated by the principal and members of the committee," said Ellen.

"The boys are being bullied and dictated to, and Bill Olson feels he can control our children."

Kreuger said he would consider resigning as president of minor hockey over the issue but won't back down from his assertion that the negative cheering was a bad choice by the four boys.

"Fair play and shared respect are the types of things our organizations stand for.

"I just want this mess to end and not have our community go further into fraction."

Olson said the BLYAA reacted to a request from minor hockey when it issued the letter and it stands by the decision.

He said if the four don't apologize, there will be a discipline hearing and whatever happens from there will be decided by the board.

"We promote togetherness in this community and their actions went against that," said Olson.

"This incident has nothing to do with school and parents threatening to take kids out of class has nothing to do with the areas being looked at.

"I conduct my day-to-day operations professionally, and these boys will be treated no differently than I would treat any other student."