Another day, another fan in an NBA arena got tossed for talking slick to a player. During Wednesday night’s game against the Thunder in Oklahoma City, Denver Nuggets guard Austin Rivers had two fans removed from their seats for nonstop heckling of his family.
Rivers is the son of former NBA player and Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers. His sister, Callie Rivers, is the wife of 76ers guard Seth Curry and sister-in-law to Golden State Warriors star Steph Curry.
Austin spoke about the incident in his postgame comments.
“They were just talking about my family the whole night,” Rivers said after the game. “I’ll take a lot, you know, I do take a lot. I’ve been taking a lot of heat since I’ve been, what, eighth grade just because of who my father is [Sixers head coach Doc Rivers], so people like to talk. You got little punks like that that sit courtside and get real bold because they, I don’t know, they feel special and they think they’re cool, talking to someone like me. I don’t know what they’re doing, I don’t know who they are. Bunch of nobodies just talking. I don’t even care to give them attention. But clowns be clowns.”
Athletes being heckled in arenas and stadiums is nothing new. This has been going on since sports became were invented. The idea that adults spend money to attend an event that is supposed to be something they enjoy to yell at other adults is asinine. But it is what it is.
That’s “fan” culture.
Most athletes are completely fine with the exchange once it stays within bounds. Heckle the opposing player of your favorite team for missing a shot or whatever on the court? Cool, nobody is tripping over that. But there is a line that you don’t cross. Everyone knows what that line is.
If you wouldn’t say it to said player’s face on the street, then you know you shouldn’t say it. Going after players’ families, etc. is crossing the line. There is no need for that. Honestly it’s weak. The only reason fans engage in this type of behavior is because they know the players can’t do anything to them.
“I don’t want to be portrayed or try to make myself sound like I’m some tough guy … None of those dudes would ever talk to me like that if I wasn’t on the basketball court,” Rivers said. “I don’t like people like that. Keep the same energy all the time. … You could talk trash, you could say ‘I suck,’ all that, that’s fair game. You’re talking about my family, like, what are we doing here? Imagine me showing up to where they work, and I’m just talking (crap) about their family the whole time, like while they’re trying to work. … A bunch of punks. I’m glad the refs threw them out otherwise, that’s where you get into a situation where I go over there and then it’s different.”
The dynamics of fan-player interactions are always interesting to dissect, given who we are as a country and a society. Being able to afford entry into an arena does not also grant you the right to do whatever you feel.
Over the past several years the NBA has instructed players to immediately speak to an official anytime a fan does something objectionable and it’s the right course of action.
There’s a simple rule we all learned when we were young, and fans should follow it. Don’t start nothing, won’t be nothing.
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