The foul went viral. The aftermath did not.
You probably saw the highlight from Kansas over the weekend: a high school breakaway dunk that turned scary when a player from Centralia High shoved a player from Hanover as he grabbed onto the rim. The dunker, Thomas Atkins, went flying into the stanchion out of bounds and crumpled to the hardwood.
An intentional foul was called on Centralia’s Nathan Rempe, but within hours the shove had become the outrage of the day. Why not a flagrant? Why not an ejection? ESPN’s Jay Williams tweeted, “Are you kidding me? If that was my teammate & I saw that, we are running off the bench. No question.” Even Dwyane Wade chimed in: “S— happens in competition but this kid walking away after pushing him and seeing how he fell was just heartless.”
The anger from elsewhere deepened as details emerged: Rempe stayed in the game – a playoff loss – and he played in the third-place game the next day after starting on the bench. A statement from higher-ups didn’t help much.
“The coaching staff handled the situation appropriately,” Kansas State High School Activities Association (KSHSAA) director Gary Musselman said. “The school would need to deal and did deal with the situation with the young man.”
The social media reaction was as extreme as you would imagine, as both Rempe and his coach got harangued.
But as all that spiraled online, the people involved decided to meet in person and iron it out.
“One father and his son met the other father and his son and gave apologies,” KSHSAA assistant executive director Francine Martin told Yahoo Sports on Tuesday.
Hanover coach Kim Lohse told Yahoo Sports the meeting happened between the third-place game and the title game on the day after the shove.
“Both players met,” he said. “Apologies were handed out and accepted by pretty much everybody. Their A.D. came to me and Thomas, and we discussed it.”
Martin was not at the game on Friday, but it wasn’t long before she heard about what happened. She was “very upset” when she saw the video, and worried about Atkins (who returned to the game), but those who were in the gym told her it didn’t look as bad in real time as the cameras showed.
“If you have heard or seen anything on Twitter in the last few days,” Atkins tweeted on Sunday, “then you would know that there was an incident where me and another athlete had an accident. Everything blew up and now it’s out of hand. That kid later apologized to me and we shook hands, all is well between us.”
Martin said the in-person meeting deescalated the situation, and it helped that the schools and their players are familiar with each other. Centralia and Hanover are roughly in between Wichita and Omaha, Nebraska.
“They are only 50 miles apart,” Martin said, “so the schools’ teams will see each other in the spring.”
Reached by phone on Tuesday, Centralia principal Larry Glatczak echoed what Martin said: “Both teams and schools have talked and resolved the issue internally and we are ready to move forward.”
Martin said Rempe has been disciplined by his school, though she declined to say how or to what extent.
Sometimes social media sheds needed light on a situation where injustice is covered up or ignored. Sometimes, though, it really serves no good purpose at all. Atkins wasn’t seriously injured, Rempe apologized, and discipline was doled out.
Should the referees have handed out a flagrant and possibly an ejection? Lohse says probably so. The shove was excessive and punishment-worthy. But was it violent? No. It’s not like Rempe stood over him and taunted him. He curled around with his back to his opponent even before Atkins landed. (The Hanover cheerleaders leapt up to celebrate the score.)
Atkins is known in the region as a high-flying dunk artist and he had a lot of momentum when he took off. What Rempe did was unwise and potentially dangerous, but context matters. Social media doesn’t do context too well. And it doesn’t do behind-the-scenes well either.
“We’re just two small schools in Kansas,” Lohse says, “trying to move on.”
Not an unreasonable request.
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