On Saturday night with roughly six seconds left in Oklahoma State’s road loss to Texas Tech, Marcus Smart got into a physical altercation with a Red Raider fan. What transpired raises an interesting debate across all sports.
To recap what happened, Smart fell down out of bounds under the basket. When he was getting up, a fan seated in what appears to be the front row says something to him. Smart then turns around and shoves the fan in the chest with both hands. They were immediately separated by Smart’s teammates. He was assessed a technical foul and sat on the bench for the remaining seconds.
Now, there are two sides to every story and this one is certainly no different. The fan that provoked Smart, Texas Tech alum Jeff Orr, obviously said something to set him off. There are rumors going around that it was a racial slur, which would certainly be enough to set nearly anyone off, let alone a superstar athlete. Was Smart right in shoving Orr? No. Was Orr right in yelling a reported racial slur? No.
Neither one is in the right. While there are two sides to every story, that doesn’t necessarily mean that either one has to be right or wrong. In this case, both are in the wrong. As a, one would hope, mature adult, Orr shouldn’t be saying the things that he is reported to have said. As a notable public figure, Smart needs to keep his cool.
The debate that this debacle sparks is the one of, when does trash talk from fan to player cross a line? There’s a difference between picking and teasing, and being inappropriate and obscene. Shouting and trying to distract them while they are shooting a free throw is fine. Yelling racial slurs to them while they are in the heat of battle is not.
I’m not going to condone or defend what Smart did, but I do understand his reaction. If someone yelled a racial slur at me, I’d have a hard time keeping my cool, especially in the intense emotion of that moment. Players have always been taught to not react to fan trash talk. However, fans should understand that there needs to be a limit to what they can say or do.
It’s almost as if there is a feeling of immunity or invincibility from the fan. They know that the player is told to keep their cool and not react, so they feel that they can shout or gesture whatever they please without feeling any reprimand. Slurs, curse words and inappropriate gestures are not uncommon to see or hear when attending a sporting event, but just because they happen, doesn’t mean that they are acceptable. At some point, passion turns to ugly immaturity.
They say that sports brings out the kid in all of us. As we learned on Saturday night, that isn’t always a good thing. Hopefully Orr, Smart and athletes and fans everywhere learned a very valuable lesson in when trash talk can go too far.