Referee apologizes; school board member is ‘elated at being vidicated’ |

Referee apologizes; school board member is ‘elated at being vidicated’

by Sheila Gardner

A high school referee apologized to Douglas County School District trustee George Echan for calling Echan’s behavior at a Whittell High School basketball game “lewd.”

In letter dated Tuesday, Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association referee Tony Richert said he apologized for the statement, but maintained Echan deserved to be ejected from the Jan. 9 game against George Whittell High School.

“On several occasions, Mr. Echan attracted my attention when his behavior crossed over the guidelines of sportsmanship,” Richert said in his letter. “My description of him as lewd was inappropriate and for that I apologize. I know I was right in asking the administration to eject him from the gym and I would take that course of action again.”

Echan said Tuesday he had mixed emotions about Richert’s apology.

“First of all, I am absolutely elated to be vindicated,” Echan said. “I really want to thank the dozens of people – many of them I don’t even know – who called or wrote. They really expressed confidence in my integrity.

“The mixed emotion part comes from thinking about the perpetrators. I like to think in the case of Mr. Richert he examined his conscience and the truth ‘outed.’ I appreciate that, although it was belated and came only after my name and the name of my family was dragged through the mud for the week. I hope he has learned he cannot use his understandable frustration as a launching pad for wholesale character assassination.”

Echan, whose son Todd is a Whittell basketball player, was asked to leave the Jan. 9 game which the Tahoe school lost to Bishop Manogue High School, 63-50. In published comments, Richert called Echan’s behavior “lewd and aggressive.”

Echan said many people in the stands were unhappy with the night’s officiating, and he was only adding his voice to the chorus. According to Echan, he said, “Get the whistle out of your mouth. These fouls are ticky-tack. Let the kids play.”

n Defends refereeing. In his letter, Richert defended his refereeing.

“It has taken countless hours to prepare myself for the position of a high school basketball referee. I have attended weekly study sessions, monthly general meetings, taken practice and final exams, volunteered to referee scrimmages, attended summer camps, observed senior officials, and refereed recreational and junior high school basketball games,” Richert said.

“Regardless of the training and preparation there is never a guarantee that as an official, I will always make the correct call.”

He asked fans and coaches to understand how difficult refereeing is, and that when they “voice their discontent over a judgment call, that they do so while maintaining respect for the person and the profession.”

n No legal action. Echan said because of Richert’s apology, he would drop plans to take legal action.

“I must confess, I have but one reputation. A charge of being unsportsmanlike is debatable. I think I have been very candid in acknowledging that I must check my comments at the door,” Echan said.

“But I could not live with accusations of lewdness. I was prepared to file a lawsuit if the matter could not have been handled the way it was. I think I would like to get it behind me,” Echan said.

Jerry Hughes, executive director of the NIAA, reiterated that he felt Echan’s comments were not lewd. He also said he believed the Tahoe Daily Tribune sports writer who reported Richert’s allegations had no right to be in the Whittell lockerroom after the game, nor should the referee have commented.

Further, Hughes said, coaches should not make public comments regarding officials.

“If they have problems with the officials, it should be addressed with the commissioner, not the news media,” Hughes wrote.

The incident unleashed a torrent of letters to the editor defending Echan and criticizing the officiating.

“I am disappointed by the many editorial comments criticizing the officials as biased. I think it is important that people understand that officials are not perfect,” Hughes wrote. “They are like all employees and have good and bad days. I ask you why two individuals would give up their entire Saturday night to travel to Whittell for the purpose of being biased.”

Echan said he appreciated Hughes’ comments.

“I think very highly of Mr. Hughes,” Echan said. “I think we are very lucky to have him. I think he was extremely impartial in his assessment of the situation and instrumental in turning this thing around, although I realize the retraction may not reach all those people who first heard the defamation.”

In his letter, Richert said he hoped the game would not be remembered for poor sportsmanship or uncontrolled actions of adults.

n It’s for the kids. “Through competition, our children learn the necessity of preparation, the value of unselfish effort, the joy of winning and the sorrow of losing. This type of competition should not be taken from these high school athletes by those in the arena: the fans, the coaches or the referees. We should allow the student athlete to leave each game with thoughts that they did their best, and, win or lose, that they still had fun,” Richert wrote. “The game of basketball is for our student athletes – let’s let them enjoy it.”

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