Speaking in the aftermath of a brawl at a middle school basketball game that ended with the death of one of the participants, Vermont Gov. Phil Scott on Tuesday said there is too much anger in contemporary society and he called for a return to civility.
The civility challenges are not unique to Vermont and they have been building over the last several years, but Scott, a Republican, placed the Jan. 31 brawl in the Canadian border town of Alburgh on the same spectrum of anger that at its extreme end led to the Jan. 6, 2021, attempted insurrection at the U.S. Capitol in Washington.
“We’re constantly being divided into camps, whether it’s politics, religion, race, or social issues where everything has turned into us versus them,” Scott said.
“All of us have an obligation to tone down the rhetoric, recognize the humanity in everyone, including those we disagree with, and just be better role models for our kids,” Scott said. “The idea that a brawl would break out among adults in front of their kids and a middle school basketball game is just plain sad.”
During his six years in office Scott, a Republican in a state where Democrats control the Legislature, has continually called for a toning down of divisive rhetoric, be it over debates about the best way to confront the COVID-19 pandemic, statehouse politics or a middle school boys basketball game.
“I don’t care what the situation was,” Scott said. “There’s no justification for a brawl breaking out among adults in front of their seventh and eighth grade kids who are playing basketball.”
The Vermont State Police are continuing to investigate the melee involving spectators during a seventh- and eighth-grade boys basketball game between Alburgh and St. Albans at the Alburgh Community Education Center. The fight ended before police arrived.
As one of the participants, Russell Giroux, 60, of Alburgh, drove home, he sought medical attention. He was taken by ambulance to the Northwestern Medical Center in St. Albans, where he was pronounced dead. The cause of death has not been released.
In the aftermath of the melee the school district banned spectators from home basketball games for the rest of the season.
The day after the event last week, Jay Nichols, The Vermont Principals’ Association, said that middle and high school sports are educational and are for the benefit of the student-athletes. Spectators who cannot behave appropriately can be barred from events and they can face criminal charges.