Nothing excuses what Marcus Smart did on Saturday night at Texas Tech. No word that was said. No amount of frustration.
However, sports fans are out of control. Period.
In 2004 we had that Malice in the Palace. A fight had just ended between players when a fan threw a drink at then Ron Artest, now Metta World Peace, and Artest reacted by going into the stands. One of the most frightening scenes in NBA history ensued. Charges were brought up on both players and fans. The fan who threw the drink had his season tickets revoked but was given a refund. The players received no such refund on their paychecks for their missed games.
In 2012 Missouri fans made signs and allegedly shirts that said No Mom Tom in an attempt to get to Kansas player Thomas Robinson. Robinson had lost his mother to a sudden heart attack in 2011. No apology was issued by the school nothing was done. This was apparently appropriate fan behavior.
Then, during the 2012 NCAA tournament the Southern Miss band can be heard chanting, during a free throw by Angel Rodriguez, “Where’s your green card.” Rodriquez is from Puerto Rico. The school immediately issued an apology but the question remains how does a group of college students believe this is acceptable behavior.
In 2013, Iowa State fans threw cups and other items at the KU players as they left the court after an overtime victory. Tweets emerged threatening Kansas point guard Elijah Johnson and calling him racial slurs. Once again the school issued an apology for the fans. After this same game, a fan rushed the court trying to confront Kansas coach Bill Self. Security intervened and restrained the angered fan.
Again, how do we get to this point over a game?
Then last night it all finally came to a head. When Marcus Smart reacted to something that was said behind him. He makes the poor decision to respond to the fan and ultimately push him. The media has jumped all over Smart and the lynch mob is ready. However, too many questions remain.
What did Texas Tech’s number one fan Orr say? Clearly he said something that got Smart’s attention. It’s obvious from the replay. Smart was being helped up and reacts to something behind him. Since nothing was thrown we can assume something was said. I have read reports from Oklahoma State media that Marcus Smart came to the bench claiming a racial slur was used. If you read Smart’s lips, as his teammates escort him away from the crowd, you can see “You called me…”
I struggle to understand how it has become acceptable to personally attack athletes. How did we get to this anything goes mentality with fans? How did we go from calling someone a flopper to calling the same kid a racial slur? How does a middle-aged man get a pass for his actions while a 19 year old kid’s reputation and character gets questioned?
Something is wrong in the wide world of sports and it’s time the NCAA and professional organizations start cracking down on what is acceptable behavior. If they don’t we will see more of the same outlandish, unacceptable fan behavior and unfortunately more players will find themselves in the same shoes as Marcus Smart. Because it’s human nature to protect yourself when no one else will.