One of the most convenient ways to shut down an argument is to turn to a person raising a valid point, say something to the effect of “you’re one to talk,” and then dismiss their otherwise worthwhile argument.
So when Draymond Green, notorious NBA troublemaker, crotch-kicker, and accumulator of fines and technical fouls, decides to chide the badly-behaved fans that have come to the fore recently after another incident involving Utah Jazz fans and Oklahoma City Thunder All-Star Russell Westbrook, the confluence of troubled messenger and very necessary message meet.
Green, referring to the $25,000 fine the league levied against Westbrook for verbally retaliating at a fan who made allegedly racist taunts toward him during the Thunder’s 98-89 win in Salt Lake City, blamed the league’s fining players as a contributing factor to bad behavior on the part of fans.
Russell Westbrook says the comment from the Jazz fan that set him off was: “Get down on your knees like you’re used to.” pic.twitter.com/i0vIlblSwJ
— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) March 12, 2019
According to ESPN, when asked at the Golden State Warriors’ Friday practice how frequently fans cross the line when it comes to decency, Green didn’t mince words.
“Often,” Green said. “A lot. It’s crazy. I guess it’s just the nature of what we do, I guess. I don’t really understand why grown men get off by coming into someone else’s job and saying bulls—. I guess that’s their way of letting out frustration in their life, but it’s kind of stupid to me.”
Green has a point. Paying your own money to go to a sports event, where you have presumably purchased the right to watch athletic competition at its highest level, and reducing yourself to the level of a drunk heckler at a comedy club amateur hour is, as Green put it, kind of stupid.
And if your taunts get nasty and begin to cross a line at a game, why are you even there?
But at the same time, Westbrook threatened the physical safety of a fan and his family. After what happened in Detroit in 2004, when Ron Artest and Stephen Jackson of the visiting Indiana Pacers went into the crowd to fight with a fan, the NBA has a very strong vested interest in doing whatever it takes to prevent the “Malice in the Palace” from ever happening again, and that means reining in player retaliation before it escalates out of control.
Green, however, is not having that argument.
“Because our penalties get worse,” Green said. “So if I’m like someone who’s probably not as happy with my life and I’ve got an opportunity, where I’m going to someone else’s place of employment and I know if I say something crazy to them and they say something back they lose money, misery loves company. So I think our penalties are raised and blasted to the world, people will keep doing that. Because at the end of the day, what do they really lose? But our families lose money out of our (pockets) that we provide. I think as long as that happens, (fans) will continue to do it. It is what is, I guess.”
Creating a sport-within-a-sport of trying to get the visiting team’s players fined or suspended isn’t something the NBA should be encouraging either.
The Jazz, for their part, have done what they can to rein in their more unruly fans. Not only do they make their fan code of conduct publicly available, the team owner, Gail Miller, has all but pleaded with their fans to be better.
— NBA TV (@NBATV) March 15, 2019
Even though the Jazz banned another fan on top of the one responsible for Westbrook’s latest fine, Green remains unconvinced that it will do anything in the grand scheme.
“Like I said, I think as long as the league continues to fine players for saying something back when there are people completely disrespecting (them), it will always happen,” Green said.
There’s plenty of blame to go around here—on the one hand, fans shouldn’t be the absolute worst version of themselves at a sporting event. On the other, professional athletes, particularly ones as boisterous and outspoken as Westbrook and Green, shouldn’t feed those trolls.
No matter who ultimately is to blame, Green is, sadly, probably right about one thing.
It’s probably never going to stop.
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