‘Criminal in any other context’: Are fans a threat to NBA and MLB stars? | NBA
AAs April drew to a close, the Cleveland Guardians outfielders faced a few unusual issues during their team’s visit to Yankee Stadium. But it wasn’t the flyballs caught in the swirling winds over the Bronx, or the power of sluggers Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge that threw them off. Instead, they found themselves bombarded with fan trash. Cleveland right fielder Oscar Mercado’s most significant catch was intercepting a beer can thrown at his head. Things got so bad that at one point Judge and Stanton had to run to appease their own fans.
“Brutal”, Guardians outfielder Myles Straw said after the game. “The worst fan base on the planet.”
Straw’s anger is understandable, but the behavior of Yankees fans (and there have been some uglier scenes in New York this weekend) is far from an aberration. In the NBA, stars such as Luka Doncic, Draymond Green, Kyrie Irving and Chris Paul have all been involved in verbal altercations with fans during this year’s playoffs. And several animal rights protesters stormed the yard for several games as the Minnesota Timberwolves faced the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round of the playoffs. In the NHL, the threats made against Colorado Avalanche center Nazem Kadri this weekend have been judged serious enough for the police to investigate.
The problem is not limited to the United States either. In the UK, Sheffield United’s Billy Sharp has been bloodied after a fan headbutted him during a pitch invasion at Nottingham Forest. The fan was arrested and will serve 24 weeks in prison. There have been allegations of a similar incident during Manchester City’s Premier League title celebrations on Sunday.
“If you look at how safe a professional sports game is, it’s laughable compared to what the crowd could do if they decided to get unruly,” says Marc Aoyagisports psychologist and professor at the University of Denver.
Of course, clashes between fans and players have always been part of the sport in the United States, but they seem to have become more frequent recently. Aoyagi says the main reason why they didn’t turn into all-out brawls, such as the infamous Malice at the Palace in 2004is player restraint.
“What players are subjected to would be criminal in any other context,” Aoyagi says. “At a minimum, there is [verbal] aggression at any game for any given player. Despite what would be illegal and elicit a reaction in any other setting, players almost never react to this type of aggression. It’s only when a fan crosses an unwritten line that the players react. This may involve including a player’s family in the verbal abuse or saying forbidden words. Again, the point here is that these violations go beyond what is already a criminal level of assault.
the NBA says he takes such a disruption seriously. “It’s a concern any time someone involved in the game has a negative interaction with a fan or when our fans have a bad experience,” an NBA spokesperson told The Guardian. “We have zero tolerance for disruptive or unruly behavior in our arenas, and any time an individual violates our NBA Fan Code of Conduct, they are dealt with promptly by arena security and law enforcement. local order, if any.”
The fan disruptions could shed light on a larger issue that has impacted society since the pandemic began in 2020. For months, fans were shut out of sporting events as Covid spread. Once the crowds returned, bad fan behavior became more prevalent. A fan in Boston threw a water bottle at Irving; Trae young was spat in New York; Russell Westbrook got popcorn thrown at him in Philadelphia. Westbrook said the incident was far from unique.
“To have food thrown at me is really bullshit,” he said after the May 2021 game. lightly. Me, it happens to me a lot. Obviously, I learned to look away, but to a certain extent, you can’t keep looking away. There must be penalties or something put in place so fans can’t just come to games and do and say whatever they want, because they wouldn’t do this shit anywhere else – in any other setting. And I’m sick and sick of it, honestly.
Aoyagi says an increased level of fan misconduct could be a byproduct of pandemic angst, which has been linked to unrest in other settings like planes.
“There is no definitive reason why this is happening, but the prevailing thought is that with the rules [such as mask wearing and quarantines] imposed during the pandemic which made people feel less empowered, the response of some has been to over-index choice and autonomy when given the chance,” says Aoyagi. “The pandemic has resulted in a mental health crisis. The only real question is whether it caused it or just exacerbated what was already brewing.
Unfortunately, it’s not just the players who have been targeted by fans. During an NBA playoff game between the Dallas Mavericks and the Phoenix Suns on Mother’s Day, fans would have repeatedly touched the mother of Chris Paul and pushed his wife. The Mavericks later said two ‘unruly fans’ had been banned from their arena until the end of 2023, but the incident drew attention to the need for players’ families to have more protection .
“This type of behavior will not be tolerated and, as was the case in Dallas, will be addressed immediately by security and our law enforcement partners,” the NBA spokesperson said. “Fans involved in this incident have been issued bans until the end of 2023, which is 19 months. educate players and their family members on ways to avoid conflict with fans, especially when away from their arenas.
Sports have always been a way for fans to escape the minutiae of everyday life and connect with a franchise, community or city. However, the professional leagues are at a critical juncture where the fun and safety of sports are marred by disruptive fans.
“Leagues, teams and, yes, fans all want sports to be that great escape where saying things is fun and integral to supporting your team,” says Aoyagi. “Certainly there is a way to support your team and try to distract the other team or feel that you are helping your team in a way that doesn’t involve aggression.”
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