Hamilton: Racism claim causes a stir in USA

Last updated 05:00 11/02/2014

Relevant offers


Two men charged over killing of NBA star Dwyane Wade's cousin NBA star Dwyane Wade's cousin fatally shot in Chicago Sydney Kings make Australian NBL Chinese signing coup Steven Adams and the kid – inspiring story of an NBA giant's help Small basketballer, big skills Ethan Rusbatch, Derone Raukawa handed Breakers 'D-Unit' chance NBA star Steven Adams on watching sister Valerie in Rio: 'It got emotional' Thunderous intentions as Steven Adams passes down meaning of hoops to Kiwi kids Recap: Steven Adams press conference in Auckland Kiwi NBA star Steven Adams joined by two Oklahoma City Thunder team-mates for basketball camps

The Winter Olympics may have begun but, in America, they're more worried about why a college basketball player shoved a fan.

OPINION: One of the country's best college players, Marcus Smart, fell into the crowd after blocking a shot on Sunday in a close game between Oklahoma State and Texas Tech. As he got up to return to the game, a fan behind him said something.

Smart retorted then shoved him before returning to the floor where he was promptly given a technical foul.

Smart claimed the fan, a middle-aged white man, called him a nigger. Self-proclaimed super-fan Jeff Orr, who travels across the country to watch his former university play, has denied that, although he admitted in a text to abusing Smart.

"I kinda let my mouth say something I shouldn't have, I feel bad," he texted, later adding that it was not "vulgar or the N-word."

It has been reported that Orr told Smart to "go back to Africa", although that seems to be based on some amateur lip-reading of video of the incident.

Smart is almost certain to be suspended for this. That seems appropriate because sports can't have athletes getting physical with spectators. But Orr should also be banned from watching live college sport if he did indeed say anything racist.

Some fans clearly believe that paying money for tickets gives them the right to yell awful insults at players and even tip drinks on them, as happened to LeBron James during the playoffs two years ago.

It doesn't. But they seem to think that they're safe to do so from behind the invisible barrier that separates athletes from spectators, similar to the way some people feel free to make offensive gestures when they're behind the wheel of a car.

Smart is 19. Orr is in his 50s. Which of them should we expect the more mature behaviour from?

Basketball is particularly sensitive to the issue of players taking on spectators because of the "Malice at the Palace" brawl 10 years ago in Detroit. This began when a drunk fan threw a drink over the player formerly known as Ron Artest, now Metta World Peace, who charged into the stands, and not with peaceful intentions. This led to a wild melee between players and fans and the longest suspensions and largest fines in NBA history. Nine spectators were injured.

Basketball is also particularly vulnerable to it happening because of the close proximity of fans and players. Players often end up in the laps of courtside spectators, as Smart did in the weekend.

It would be relatively simple to fix. They could take out the first couple of rows of seating, moving spectators further from the court. But they're not willing to take this step because it would reduce revenue (naturally courtside seats are the most expensive), and the atmosphere wouldn't be the same.

Ad Feedback

But, by leaving them so close, the occasional confrontation is inevitable and they're effectively relying on the restraint of players, young alpha males pumped with adrenalin.

It seems a big risk to take, particularly in a country known for its love of litigation.


It was great to see Tim Wilkinson playing in the final pairing at the Pebble Beach tournament yesterday. Danny Lee has always been regarded as the more talented golfer but it was clear during the tournament that Wilkinson plays more intelligently. His course management was far superior to Lee's and it was reflected in their scoring.

- The Press

Special offers
Opinion poll

How do you expect the Breakers to perform in this season's Australian NBL?

Last season was a blip, they'll be champions once again

They'll go close to another title, beaten finalists I'd say

Playoffs for sure, but can't see them going any further

Not too excited, they'll miss the playoffs again

Vote Result

Related story: (See story)

Featured Promotions

Sponsored Content