Wilson, St. Albans fans clash at basketball game

Marco Squitieri

A boys’ basketball tournament at St. Albans was canceled earlier this month after fans hurled bottles at each other, damaged a bus, and screamed vulgar taunts during Wilson’s win over St. Albans.

The incident occurred during the Malcolm J. Pittman Memorial Showcase on December 3. The stands were packed with hundreds of fans as students from both schools turned out in large numbers. While games between Wilson and private schools routinely get rowdy, the atmosphere inside the Martin Gym was far more hostile and aggressive than normal.

The first half was packed with back and forth action, leaving the Tigers and Bulldogs tied at 22 when the game reached halftime. As the teams left the floor for the half, tempers flared between the two fanbases. The St. Albans fans rose from the bleachers and began leaving the gym, attempting to exit past the Wilson players and their student section. This drew a reaction from the Tigers fans, as some felt that they were trying to antagonize the players and fans. Seeing the empty student section, the Wilson fans rushed the St. Albans student section. 

St. Albans staff took quick notice of the movement by the Wilson fans, directing two MPD officers to diffuse the situation. Additional officers were called to try and keep the escalating conflict at bay. The St. Albans fans were restrained from reentering the gym. This, along with chants of “this is our house” by Wilson fans enraged them. 

In the aftermath of the event, community members took to the local forum site “DC Urban Mom” to discuss the incident. Some commenters alleged that Wilson students stole the personal belongings, including phones, of St. Albans students while in their student section. 

“I didn’t see any of that happening,” said Wilson senior Dylan Stevens, who attended the game. “I saw two Wilson kids take a sweatshirt and that’s about it,” he continued. The sweatshirt, he added, was later returned during the game. 

Senior Grant Gwadz said he did witness some jackets being stolen from the St. Albans student section. “[It] just reflects poorly on Wilson and plays into a depiction of Wilson students that I don’t think represents us accurately or well,” Gwadz said. 

Wilson Athletic Director Mitch Gore was at the game and expressed his displeasure with the vulgar language and behavior of some of the Wilson students in attendance. “I was sad to hear that a few people chose to do things that were really inappropriate, but because [they] represent our school,” Gore said. 

Gore emphasized his frustration that the actions of some fans painted Wilson in a negative light, while calling for better sportsmanship from Wilson fans in the future. “If we beat another team, we don’t have to cheer in their fan’s faces,” Gore said. 

He also objected to rumors that Wilson students were drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana inside the gym during the game. “I know we had a few staff who were in the crowd, so I’m pretty sure I would’ve heard from them if that was the case,” he said. 

As the second half began, chants and taunts were fired back and forth between the two schools’ fans. Some of these chants became vulgar, as multiple Wilson students reported both hearing and using profane words. 

Wilson players noted the intensity coming from both sides of the gym. 

“I [attended St. Albans] before I went here, so they had a couple personal heckles and chants, but you got to stay focused on the game,” junior guard Ben Kobil said. 

Despite this, the overwhelming sentiment from Wilson players was that the chants weren’t particularly extreme and didn’t distract them from the game. 

As the Tigers took control of the game in the second half, the animosity grew. A few Wilson students made their way over to the St. Albans side and started talking trash directly in front of the St. Albans student section. A Beacon reporter witnessed an altercation occurring between two Wilson students and a St. Albans parent after the parent allegedly called the Wilson students “thugs” and boasted about his income. The parent was restrained by staff members and the two Wilson students were moved back to the Wilson side. 

Once the Tigers had completed their dominant victory, the Wilson students were ordered to exit out a specific door while the St. Albans students were told to stay put. However, the door Wilson students were directed to use was right next to the St. Albans student section. This brought the two fanbases face to face, causing sparks to fly.

 Insults and bottles were hurled across a wall of MPD officers and St. Albans administrators attempted to keep the two groups separate. After exiting the gym following their impressive victory, Tiger fans weren’t ready to end the celebration. 

Multiple Wilson students who were in attendance told The Beacon a Wilson student climbed on top of a St. Albans bus once outside, and saw the bus’s windshield wipers being broken off. Online commenters on DC Urban Mom reported that cars were keyed and windshields were smashed, but these rumors were not corroborated by Wilson students and Gore. 

As the Wilson team was preparing for their next matchup in the tournament, St. Albans announced their decision to cancel the remainder of the tournament. According to Gore, another large-scale event occurring on the St. Albans campus at the same time also played a role in Headmaster James Robinson’s decision. 

The Headmaster, Athletic Director, Head Coach, and assistant basketball coach at St. Albans did not respond to a request to comment.

Gore also noted that rumors claiming other private schools are planning to cancel scheduled games against Wilson are false. •