When Elder hosts St. Xavier High School for basketball Friday night, Principal Kurt Ruffing says the atmosphere will be a lot different from a year ago when some students hurled racist chants at two players on the opposing team and called St. X fans by a homophobic slur.
For the past year, administrators and students of the Greater Catholic League School - which includes Elder, St. Xavier, La Salle and Moeller - have been meeting to talk about sportsmanship, cheering and sensitivity.
Elder Athletic Director Kevin Espelage says they've discussed "what are acceptable cheers [and] what would be unacceptable cheers; where are some of these cheers coming from in terms of their origin and purpose; and things like that."
Espelage wants students to take ownership of the cheers and think about what they might be saying that others don't understand. "Last year they were cheering the popular video game Fortnite, cheering back and forth characters in the game. For somebody like myself, I had no idea what it meant or what they were taking about."
One concrete change Friday will be the use of cheerleaders at the Elder-St. X game. Ruffing says in the past there wasn't room for them in the crowded fieldhouse. They will be stationed in the front row and will lead all cheers.