Enosburg Athletic director Anthony Sorrentino, with Hornet coach Gary Geddes and Middlebury coach Chris Altemose behind him, oversees the departure of all Enosburg students who were sitting in the student section Tuesday night. Sorrentino briefly addressed the crowd after the first quarter of the varsity game, telling them that due to inappropriate comments, the game would not continue until the students left the gym (Ben Kaufmann, County Courier)


By Ben Kaufmann
County Courier

ENOSBURG – In a jarring twist to Tuesday night’s basketball game between the Enosburg and Middlebury girls, Hornet Athletic Director Anthony Sorrentino approached the EFHS student section before the second quarter began and informed them that, due to something unacceptable which had been said, the game would not continue until all students from that section exited the building.

The students did as requested and promptly filed out with little objection. Following the contest, Sorrentino said the move came in response to racist language from at least one person in that section at a player on the Middlebury junior varsity team. The comments came toward the end of that game, which preceded the varsity contest. Sorrentino was informed by a player on the JV team in between games and explained that the appropriate response was clear to him.

“We were unable to really isolate down to a specific individual, just kind of a general section of the crowd,” said Sorrentino. “And I was not going to try to engage in some type of finger-pointing amongst the students. It felt like the best way to proceed – and I talked to the coaches and officials prior to make sure we were on the same page – if we’re going to continue this game tonight, that player is going to feel safe and we’re going to clear our students out to do that.”

Sorrentino added that, at this point, it’s unclear if the offending party or parties are even EFHS students. Alumni, friends, and others often join the section and he hopes to uncover who was responsible but did not know Tuesday if any current Enosburg students were involved. 

Enosburg has faced similar controversy already this school year after the boy’s soccer team was accused of racially taunting Winooski. From the audible disgust in his voice when asked to speak to the nature of the verbal abuse Tuesday, it was clear the response would have been the same regardless of the incident this fall.

“They were negative about a player, associated to their race. And it was not OK, it was racist, three blatantly racist comments,” he said.

Due to the timing of Tuesday’s events, both varsity coaches were unaware of what had taken place but took a unified front and joined Sorrentino when the students were addressed,

“He just came over and said something inappropriate was being said and he wasn’t going to start the game until the students were out of here,” said Hornet coach Gary Geddes.

“The only interaction I had, I thought was super supportive,” Middlebury varsity coach Chris Altemose said. “They were just really willing to step in, and I don’t even know yet what really happened, but step in and do what they felt was the right thing to do in that particular moment and I really appreciated their support.”

Both Geddes and Sorrentino lamented that the actions of a few ruined the chance for all to take in a great game. A one-point contest midway through the fourth quarter ended in a 46-40 Enosburg win.

“All it takes is one or two, as you know, to ruin everything. Whether it was said or not, I don’t know. But we try to hold ourselves to a pretty high esteem here,” Geddes said. “Our student section is really good and supportive. As you noticed, how dead it was after they left, we get some of our energy off that, and tomorrow night let’s hope everything turns out good.”

“Unfortunately, that was the best way to proceed,” said Sorrentino. “And we’ll have to do our due diligence tomorrow to dig in and see if we can figure out who the person causing these headaches is, but it’s really unfortunate for our girls because that was a hell of a game. It would have been great to have our students who can act appropriately here to cheer them on.”

Prior to each game, Enosburg plays an announcement recorded by students which informs the crowd that verbal abuse may result in the removal of some or all fans. That announcement specifically mentions comments made about race, among other criteria. Sorrentino said he would work with the EFHS administration to address the problem so students who adhere to spectator expectations can attend games. That action will have to come quickly if Enosburg students are going to be able to take in an anticipated showdown with BFA-St. Albans on Wednesday evening.

In response to questions about what message he wanted Enosburg students to understand before attending an event, Sorrentino didn’t hesitate.

“Support your players, don’t tear down the opponent, that’s not sportsmanship,” he said of his message to Hornet fans. “Just cheer on your team, but you don’t need to nitpick and belittle and dehumanize the opponent just because A. you’re beating us or B. we’re beating you – neither one gives you a green light to make somebody feel less-than. It had nothing to do with sport.”

As for what he wants opposing teams to know when he comes to an event at Enosburg, Sorrentino was clear.

“That we’re doing everything we can to create a safe playing environment for everybody. And that not all the people who might sit near our student section are actually students. That we’re doing the best we can to educate our kids.”

A complete story on the tremendous basketball game which surrounded Tuesday’s controversy will be in this week’s print edition of the County Courier.