Former NBA player Gilbert Arenas sounded off on fan behavior at games. As a player Arenas said he was called a N***** by Boston Celtics fans, “with the hard r.” Fans being racist towards players, particularly in cities like Boston, is nothing new. Arenas opened up about how players deal with trash talk from fans versus opposing players.
“It’s two sets of standards. What we’ll accept from fans and what we’ll accept from players,” Arenas said. “What we’ll accept from players is a lot worse than what a fan can tell us, to piss us off…[with a player] it’s trash talking within the game. ‘Your girl is cheating on you.’ ‘Ok yeah whatever, I’mma bust ya ass.’ We are going back and forth. [When a fan wishes harm on your family] as a fan, that’s too much.”
An adult paying money to come to an arena to heckle another adult is strange behavior. But that’s sports culture. Fans believe they have a “role” or “part” to play in the outcome of a game. The reality is, they don’t.
If you purchased a ticket you are entitled to watch the game and enjoy it or not. You are not entitled to interactions with the players. If a fan decides to interact and they go too far and face consequences, that’s just the way it is.
Everyone knows where the line is and what crossing it is. If what you are about to say to an athlete would get you punched in the face or run up on in any other scenario, you’ve crossed the line.
That obviously includes anything racist or any kind of vile threat or commentary about a player’s family. You want to say a player “sucks” or whatever, that’s fine. They’re used to that. Don’t take it to other places outside the confines of play and the game.
In Thursday night’s game between the Los Angeles Lakers and Philadelphia 76ers, Lakers’ forward Carmelo Anthony got into it with a 76ers’ fan.
“Some things were said,” Anthony said afterward. “Unacceptable. I’m cool with fans heckling, fans talking trash, cheering for their team, booing the other team, I’m all for that. But when you cross certain lines, as a man, you just, that’s what you’re going to see. That’s what you’re going to get, as you saw there.”
A fan was ejected from the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia due to the incident, and security at the arena will be responsible for any further discipline.
This behavior isn’t unique to the NBA, but it’s more obvious because of the intimate nature of the aena. Fans are courtside and can literally touch players, due to the proximity. But just because you can see and hear what’s going on doesn’t mean you have the right to inject yourself into it.
These are among the best athletes in the world in hyper-competitive, high-stress, very intense environments. The “fight or flight” response from a player can trigger a reaction you don’t want to be on the other end of.
“You play through the heckles. But that’s all fun and games,” Anthony said. “I mean, I’ve been doing that for 19, 20 years. Especially playing here, it’s been a great place to come in and play. And fans, I know how the fans are here.
“But there’s just certain things you don’t bring to any type of sporting event. There’s just certain things you don’t say to anybody. If I was outside and I bumped into you and you said those things to me, then it would be a totally different story.”
There’s a simple rule we were all taught at one point or another and it’s a maxim. Don’t start nothing, won’t be nothing.
More news from our partners: