Security questions arise after second San Francisco high school basketball brawl 

March 4 was supposed to be a historic night for Washington High School’s boy’s basketball team, which beat Mission High School to capture the school’s first city league title in 29 years.

Instead, the evening was memorable for another reason.

Immediately after Washington’s thrilling 75-72 triumph at Kezar Pavilion, a brawl broke out in the stands and spilled out into the floor.

According to sources at the game, the fight broke out between two student spectators and quickly spread. A player from the Washington team waded into the crowd to defend his brother, but was struck in the face. A couple of Mission players then came to the aid of the Washington student.

Private security guards and police officers dispersed the crowd of 1,300, and directed both teams to locker rooms following the brawl. No one was injured in the fight, a police spokesman said.

It was the second major melee to occur this season at a public school boy’s basketball game, following a similar event at Lincoln High School that reportedly involved 20 juveniles,  including two members of the Marshall High School team.

The latest fight left many wondering what, if anything, can be done to prevent similar fracases from occurring in the future.

Donald Collins, commissioner of the Academic Athletic Association, which oversees The City’s public sports teams, said there were around five-10 police officers and 10 private security guards inside Kezar Pavilion at the game. Before entering the gym, each spectator was asked to show security members the contents of their bag.

Collins said that enhanced security could not have prevented the fight, although he did not rule out the possibility of deploying other safety measures for future events.

He said the March 4 brawl was an aberration. “This has been an incredibly sportsmanlike league,” said Collins.
He said the organization has already barred two spectators involved in the fight from attending AAA games until the end of the 2017 season. If they are seen attending any games in the future, they could be subject to legal prosecution for trespassing, Collins said.  Other disciplinary actions may be looming, although it’s unclear if they will extend to the players.

Heidi Anderson, spokeswoman for the San Francisco Unified School District, said she couldn’t speak specifically about the incident because of an ongoing investigation, but she added that “student safety at sporting events is always a concern of the district.”

Arnold Zelaya, dean of students at Mission High School and coach of the boys basketball team, said at no time did he feel the safety of his players were threatened. He said security details for most public school games are very efficient, although he questioned the exiting strategies for some of the more crowded contests, such as the city championship.

“Most of the confrontations we notice happen after the game, when people are milling out of the gym.”  Zelaya said. “It might be a good idea to review the procedures that are in place for the post-game crowds.”

Because of the post-game incident, Washington’s players had little time to bask in the spotlight of their season-defining win.

“They were handing out awards and the stands were empty,” said Bonta Hill, a freelance reporter who covers prep sports in The City and has contributed to The Examiner. “It was pretty sad.”

wreisman@sfexaminer.com

Correction: This article was corrected on March 14, 2011. The original article misstated the location of the fight that occurred earlier this year. The game was played at Lincoln High School.

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Will Reisman

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