Recently, a clip from an NBA game back in December has shown former LA Clipper, Blake Griffin being restrained. The clip has recently become viral due to Griffin being heated enough that a few of his former teammates and a referee.
The current Piston star is but one of many athletes of color, from big league sports to small high school teams who has experienced harassment while at work. I know some people do not consider playing professional sports as job because they do it to entertain people. At the end of the day though, athletes put in countless hours of training drills, practices, time on the road away from family, and the destruction of their bodies. Yes, it is a job and that means you give them at least a base level of respect that includes keeping racist comments in the your mouth.
The term “boy” was often used by slave owners and other whites to degrade and devalue African-American men. The term has been used since in countless decades after slavery ended, from employers, law enforcement, even in government. In 2008, former Kentucky Congressman Geoffrey Clark Davis used the term in a speech when referring to then President Obama.
It is not about forgetting someone’s name, it is about a lack of respect and the use of a word that in this context is highly racially coded. Just about as close as you can to using another certain word aimed at African-Americans, without saying that word.
In the case of Griffin, no one knew what had caused the altercation until the footage was just recently released. At first, it just looked like a black athlete getting angry at a white fan.
The full video shows the referee and team management doing the right thing by kicking the fan out of the game. A Utah man, Shane Keisel, was banned after a racial incident against Oklahoma City Thunder’s Russell Westbrook. Several players from the opposing team, the Utah Jazz actually came forward to support Westbrook, leading to Keisel’s ban from all stadium events.
Utah and their team are hoping to use the incident as a dialogue about race and the types of race based heckling that happens towards minority players.
Unfortunately, that is not something that happens at all games, professional or not.
Footballers of African, Middle Eastern, Asian in the United Kingdom and other parts of Europe are racially trolled and harassed at games often. Sometimes even in mass from hostile fans to players who are on teams they support.
Dani Alves, a pro-footballer in Barcelona had bananas thrown at him in a 2014 game. The fan was identified thanks to stadium footage and banned for life from the venue. Alves had the perfect response to his heckler, calmly picking it up, taking a bite and tossing back in the direction it came from. Both Alves and Griffin’s incidents are not isolated. This type of behavior is generally expected by most minority athletes to happen to them sooner or later.
I grew up playing sports and I also work in sports. I have both been subject to regular heckling and race based profanities, whether it be at large national competitions or small local events. It often happened from strangers but I also had personal incidents happen from the parents I knew of other teammates. Or I would watch them yell racially charged things at the children of strangers.
Heckling in sports has happened for decades in pretty much all of them. However, it is one thing to yell about someone missing shots, passes, not throwing a punch during an opening or seemingly playing half heartedly. Most teams even have chants to heckle and unnerve opposing players that do not rely on racist terms or racially coded words.
I do not show up at any of their jobs and call them what I would want to after being harassed from the sidelines. Would I like to? Yes, but I have better and more important things to do with my time not to mention that type of heckling would be considered full non stop harassment. Just because you are paying for tickets and snacks does not give you the right to go on profanity and racially charged tirades.
There is a fine line between getting passionate for a match and just being a plain degenerate. You can do better for sixty minutes and who knows maybe it will carry over into your personal life.