Submited by Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger
NBA star Le Bron James did what lots of professional players would love to do – he confronted a loud mouth fan during a game on Friday night. James, who recently departed his hometown team in Cleveland to a storm of criticism, was playing an away game in Auburn Hills Michigan against the Detroit Pistons. The Pistons, perennial bad boys of the NBA since the days of notorious Bill Laimbeer and kooky Dennis Rodman, are in a hopeless downward spiral this season, while James’ team, the Miami Heat, are favorites to win the Eastern Division.
Apparently, a likely blowout loss wasn’t enough to silence one Piston fan who began a relentless heckle of James during the first quarter of the game, even bringing James’ mother into the off-color rant. That was enough for the 6′ 8″, 250 pound NBA scoring machine who began his career right out of high school.
James confronted the fan saying, “I don’t care what you say to me. I don’t give a [expletive] what you say, but don’t be disrespectful.” According to the fan he was offended by James’ … cursing. (Call me skeptical here).
Shortly thereafter, security came and “counseled” the fan, who was allowed to remain in his seat so long as he didn’t heckle. James’ two young sons were at the game and within ear shot of the vocal fan. The Heat were as good as advertised dropping the Pistons 106-92. Le Bron pumped in 16 points, dished 10 assists, and pulled down 8 rebounds.
I have often wondered about the notion that fans can say in an arena words that would get them cited for provoking an altercation just a few yards away in the street. I am aware of no state that permits criminal acts at a sporting event — such as curse and abuse or provoking violence (so-called “fighting words”) — simply because you buy a ticket. many fans think otherwise, and believe a stub of paper grants them the right to depart civilization during the game.
Things were so bad in Philadelphia that a municipal court was set up in the basement of old Veterans Stadium to handle unruly fans. On the other hand, both the NHL and the NBA have seen notorious incidents where players have taken their grievances into the stands to batter fans with shoes, hockey sticks, and whatever was available.
Buying a ticket certainly grants you a legal license to watch the game. Whether it grants you the right to make an ass of yourself is another matter.
~Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger