Race At The Root Of Problem

By Anthony Harris
Updated: November 24, 2004

NEW YORK, NY.—For years it has been boiling and simmering underneath the surface.

An unspoken dirty little secret that everyone knows exists, but choose to ignore so as to not rock the status quo.

As I watched the events of Friday November 19, 2004 in the final seconds of the NBA game between the Indiana Pacers and Detroit Pistons I couldn’t help but notice the obvious.

For as we know the camera doesn’t lie.

Except for one burly African American man who caught Pacers guard Fred Jones from behind, the majority of the fans either joining the melee from afar by hurling objects (remember, that’s what started the fiasco) or brazenly leaving their seats to get involved appeared to be white.

Furthermore, the actions of those caught on tape showed a complete lack of impunity (bordering on privilege), and – the consumption of alcohol notwithstanding – their behavior seemed to express a conscious reaction.

Now, Ron Artest’s laundry list of bad behavior is indeed a problem and I’m sure that played a part in the resulting season long suspension.

His silly statements a while back about wanting to be away so he could promote a CD was given far too much attention, thereby feeding into his narcissistic attitude.

I’m a strong proponent of praising appropriate behavior and ignoring, almost ostracizing, the sophomoric conduct that the former St. John’s University star exhibited regarding his music producing skills and his ability to play.Imagine what a wonderful world it would be if we weren’t inundated with such frivolity – from Paris Hilton on down.

I’ll even posit that the Indiana Pacers should’ve granted his initial wish of taking time off by suspending him without pay, while never disclosing the request or their subsequent reaction to the press.

The suspensions meted out by commissioner David Stern were warranted, except for the length of the season ending judgment for Artest.

That type of ban is unprecedented in the world of sports, and doesn’t adequately address the inappropriate actions of the fan that started the riot.

It would’ve been nice to see Stern keep the suspensions indefinite until the authorities could sort through the damage and accurately pinpoint which fans did what, and then perhaps the prosecution would be able to get more than the misdemeanor usually associated with such conduct.

Furthermore, this is not the first time that fans and players have tangled.

Here are a few examples that come to mind: Former NBA guard Vernon Maxwell accosted a fan a decade ago that allegedly used the “n” word and made a disparaging remark toward his stillborn baby.

Maxwell, not known for avoiding league discipline, was suspended 10 games and no other players or fans were involved.

In 1991, 76ers forward Charles Barkley spat on a young fan and was fined $10,000 and suspended one game.

25 years ago in the “boys will be boys” world of the National Hockey League several Boston Bruins players went into the stands at Madison Square Garden after a fan hit a teammate.

The players, most notably Terry O’reilly and Mike Milbury, “dealt” with the Fan. The latter used the fan’s shoe as punishment.

O’reilly was suspended eight games, Milbury two.

Also in the NHL, just three years ago, Tie Domi doused a fan with a water bottle, receiving just a $1,000 fine.

Baseball is not absolved of such infamous actions, two years ago Kansas City Royals first base coach Tom Gamboa was bum rushed on the field by a drunken father-son team.

It is important to note that all of these instances involved White fans.

Over the last few years we’ve consistently seen unruly fans go further and further over the edge.

The outright attack on Monica Seles that practically ended her tennis career, football fans tossing snowballs at Giants Stadium or bottles and whatever else they can get their hands on in Cleveland and Denver.

Sadly, there has been no Artest-like example made of any fan(s).

The above examples of NHL justice are particularly relevant for me since the majority of that league’s participants are White.

Before I go any further let me say that I am proud to say that I am an avid hockey fan, and am having a hard time dealing with their lockout.

However, I’ve always been dismayed at how the NHL is the only professional team sport that allows fighting – it is even outlawed on the collegiate level.

Over the last few years I came to the realization that the unstated rationale for such antisocial behavior is that they play by different rules.

It’s okay for large predominantly white hockey players to vent their frustration (yes the game is very physical), but when football or basketball (read Black) players decide to square off everyone has a problem.

Please don’t think that I’m condoning fighting everywhere, but the rules clearly support my thesis.

Five minutes for fighting in the NHL, a game ejection and a likely suspension or fine in two very popular sports where the majority is of color.

Moreover, some of the worst acts of thuggery have occurred on NHL ice. Yet, to date the longest suspension is 23 games.

Finally, this brand of selective judgment reminds me of the inequity in this increasingly dangerous world where only like minds can have nuclear weapons but when other folks, as a means of protection, acquire them there’s a problem and our worst fears are played upon.

Or better yet and perhaps more to the point here, when the insecure elite class – sensing that there is actually something that they can’t directly control – employ people who look like them as sports talk radio hosts, sports writers and announcers.

We are constantly bombarded with how much they make and that they’re not appreciative or humble.

Could that just be talk to placate those lacking confidence, and fearing the deluge of Black athletes on the scene?

Again, keep in mind that White fans have initiated the overwhelming majority of fan-player scraps.

I guess now we know where the “Angry White Man” hangs out.