…and All That Jazz!

Written by on March 25, 2019

On The TunneySide of Sports March 25, 2019 #736 …and All That Jazz!

After further review… Russell Westbrook, the point guard for the Oklahoma City Thunder (NBA), was fined $25,000 by the league for his retaliation outburst toward a fan in Salt Lake City during a game when the Thunder played the Utah Jazz a couple of weeks ago. There is no disputing that Westbrook used vile language since it went viral vocally as well as in print. The fan who irritated Westbrook with his racial epithets was Shane Keisel, who now has been banned from all future Jazz games by Jazz President, Steve Starks. In banning Keisel, Starks said, “We all have a responsibility to respect the game of basketball, and more importantly, treat each other as human beings.” That last part is the essence of this piece.

Having been in football stadiums and basketball arenas most of my life, I, too, have had to contend with egregious fan behavior. The description of the word fan is often “fanatic” which may properly describe the behavior of the overly enthusiastic fan. There is no excuse for any individual, i.e., fan, to use racial or offensive words towards players – either on their team or opponents. However, in today’s society perhaps-we have allowed the use of the First Amendment to go beyond civility. Some will say, ”Yeah, yeah, yeah, but it’s my right.”

Maybe! Unfortunately, the use of social media has given a whole new meaning to behavior. Facebook, Instagram and the like have given individuals the opportunity to write or say anything they wish, short of slander and libel (and there is some doubt there as well).

My issue here is not with the fan, but with the player – any player. My dad taught me to not talk to opponents during the game and, moreover, never to fans. Have fans screamed at me with foul words? Of course. What would I have gained by getting into a vile shouting match with them? Players in any sport don’t deserve cruel epithets hurled at them. Fans have the right to “boo” poor physical performance and/or behavior, but it should stop there!

So, what can a player do to avoid what Westbrook did? Stadiums and arenas have uniformed security guards. When a fan becomes unruly, a coach needs to summon a security guard to quiet-down that unruly fan and, if need be, have that individual removed from the venue.

Will you please comment on how to deal with unruly fans?

 To contact Jim, go to JimTunney.com or email Jim@JimTunney.com.


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