I have little patience for spoiled-rotten professional athletes, especially in the NBA. Yet after this weekend’s fiasco in Detroit, I have even less patience for unruly sports fans.
In this column, the Miami Herald‘s Dan Le Batard nails it:
It was ugly and awful and historically staining, and now, it will get worse as the media machine cranks up, and the wailing begins about how our millionaire athletes are spoiled, entitled and out of control.
But the fans are more to blame for the riot in Detroit than those players are. Not to make this too playground childish, but, Mommy, they started it.
Ron Artest doesn’t lose what little is left of his mind and charge into those stands if some dope doesn’t hurl a cup and hit him in the head first.
It is lazy to say it is the responsibility of the athletes to remain rational, calm and professional in these instances. But you might not remain so rational, calm and professional if someone came into your emotion-and-intensity-soaked workplace and hit you in the head with something. And you might not remain so rational, calm and professional if you saw an angry mob surrounding your scared friend in a fight, either.
Don’t make the rules different for the athletes than you would make them for yourself.
The athletes involved, including Ron Artest, will all receive substantial penalties — as well they should — but the thuggish Detroit fans involved should suffer too. Any fan who threw a beer or rushed the court should lose their season or package tickets. Marc Stein of ESPN.com also suggests the NBA learn from Europe’s experience in dealing with unruly soccer fans:
In soccer-playing countries, the natural response to the deplorable behavior of Detroit’s unruliest fans would be to lock out every single fan on March 25, when the Pacers make their next visit to the Palace.
Just last week, selected members of England’s national soccer team were racially abused by Spanish fans in what amounted to an exhibition game. FIFA, the sport’s international ruling body, is threatening to force Spain to play its next home international match — a real World Cup qualifier — behind closed doors, with only members of the media allowed in as witnesses.
It has already happened in this season’s Champions League. The opening group match for Italy’s AS Roma, against the Ukraine’s Dynamo Kiev in September, was abandoned early after Swedish referee Anders Frisk was injured by a coin thrown from the stands. AS Roma’s next home match, against Germany’s Bayer Leverkusen, was played without fans in the stands.
Such measures have never been taken Stateside, but the Pistons would never forget the message. Not only would its home-court advantage be wiped out in a late-season matchup with its fiercest rivals, but Detroit would also lose the six to seven figures of revenue it generates from every home game.
Professional athletes who lost control should be punished with fines and suspensions. But when spoiled fans instigate and provoke athlete reactions, they should be punished too.