Referee issues apology to Echan
Douglas County School Board member George Echan expressed mixed emotions Tuesday afternoon regarding a written apology from referee Tony Richert, who claimed Echan exhibited “lewd behavior” before ejecting him during a Jan. 9 basketball game.
“I’m delighted to be vindicated, and I really express a great deal of gratitude to it seems like 100 people, who expressed their trust and confidence in my integrity,” said the 53-year-old attorney from Zephyr Cove.
“But on the other hand, I still have some anger. I’m glad Mr. Richert came to the truth, although it seemed somewhat belatedly after my name and that of my family was dragged through the mud for about a week. I hope he’s learned that he can not express his frustration with critical comments or use it as a launching pad for wholesale character assassination. Even though there’s a retraction, though appreciated, it will probably not reach as many ears or eyes as the original slander did.”
Richert regretted describing Echan’s behavior as lewd but stands by ejecting Echan from the Division II boys basketball game that Whittell lost 63-50 to Manogue.
“On several occasions Mr. Echan attracted my attention when his behavior crossed over the guidelines of sportsmanship. My description of him as lewd was inappropriate and for that I apologize. I know I was right in asking the (Whittell High) administration to eject him from the gym, and I would take that course of action again,” he wrote in a letter of apology to Echan.
The referee originally claimed Echan used profanity while criticizing his officiating.
But Echan steadfastly denied doing so.
“I readily admit that I told an official that his fouls were ticky-tack and that he should keep the whistle out of his mouth and let the kids play. No obscene, suggestive or off-color words or gestures were utilized by me at any time,” he said.
Echan considered legal action against Richert until he received the apology.
“I have only one reputation and I simply could not let it go,” he said. “The important thing is Mr. Richert apologized and gave his identity. I’m not interested in drawing the last drop of his blood, even though some encouraged me to do so.
“It took him one week to determine that I wasn’t lewd. Maybe in another seven days he’ll determine I shouldn’t have been ejected and three weeks they’ll name me sportsman of the year.”
Richert didn’t officiate a game Tuesday night but will resume his duties Friday. The fan ejection, a first for Richert, won’t affect the way he governs fans in the future, the official said.
“I treat any game the same. If someone gets my attention and takes away where my attentions have to be centered, I have to go by a case-by-case scenario,” he said.
Echan, a 20-year resident of South Shore, has been president of the Tahoe-Douglas Chamber of Commerce twice, served on the Douglas County Planning Commission and been chairman of the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority.
Echon’s son Todd is a Whittell basketball player.
According to Echan, the ordeal won’t change the way he roots for the Warriors when he attends a pair of games this weekend.
“I don’t want to give the appearance of unsportsmanlike conduct, but it will not cool the positive enthusiasm I have for Whittell and my son,” he said.
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