WAUSAU, Wis. – Wisconsin fans of high school sports may soon get this message: Show your team spirit, but don't expose anything else.
The sportsmanship committee of the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association recommended banning fans with bare or painted chests from indoor games last month. The proposal will take effect if a committee of state athletic directors OKs it next week and the association's Board of Control approves it June 19.
"People say, 'Hey, we are attempting to take the fun out of high school sports.' That isn't the intention at all," Tom Shafranski, assistant director of the association, said Thursday.
High school students can't bare their chests in class, so there's no reason for them to do it at indoor sporting events, he said.
Mike Blackburn, associate executive director of the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association in Indianapolis, said Wisconsin's proposed ban could be the first in the country. Nationally, bare-chested fans have been not been a big problem at high school games, although he has heard some concerns, Blackburn said.
The proposed ban doesn't include outdoor sports, such as baseball, where the weather and social conventions might make it more acceptable, WIAA officials said.
Todd Clark, coordinator of the WIAA's sportsmanship committee, said the idea of banning bare chests has been tossed around for years because some people find such exposure offensive.
It's usually only a handful of young men, but they draw a lot of attention, he said.
"I just don't know what not wearing a shirt at a game has anything to do with being there to watch the competitors compete," Clark said. "You don't hear a lot of argument against moving forward with this."
Steve Gering, 15, who will be a sophomore at Wausau East High School next fall, disagreed, even though he said he has never considered going shirtless at games.
"It actually shows how wild people can be. I think it shows pride in your school," he said. "It makes it more exciting when people do it."
The WIAA now bans bare-chested fans at indoor state tournaments, in part because fans with painted chests damaged cloth seats when the paint dripped on them, Clark said.
"We do allow the facial paint to be used. We do not see that as a problem. But if they have body paint on, we ask them to get a jacket or some piece of apparel over it," he said.
High school students modeling fans at college and professional games have led to more of the behavior, Shafranski said.
"Many times we get some cross-dressing, when boys are wearing bikini tops that some people find to be offensive," he said.