Draymond Green’s been known to engage in a bit of trash talk from time to time, and the Golden State Warriors’ emotional leader doesn’t mind being on the receiving end of the same sort of verbal punishment he dishes out. Where Green draws a line, though, is on the kind of racial slurs that reportedly spewed forth from the Fenway Park stands at Baltimore Orioles outfielder Adam Jones earlier this week — the sort of racial abuse that the All-Star forward says he’s heard lobbed by fans at NBA games, too.
After Jones’ incident became a major national story, New York Yankees pitcher C.C. Sabathia said he and other black Major League Baseball players have come to expect racial abuse when their teams visit Boston, and that he’s never been called the N-word in any MLB park besides Fenway. In an interview with Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated, Green declined to mention a specific location, but said that he’s heard that particular slur in “a few places” around the NBA during his five-year NBA career:
“I’ve gotten the N-word, all of that. I’d rather not get into [where]. A few places, especially being that it is me. Athletes are just not protected in that regard. Maybe something like [the Adam Jones incident] will help,” Green told The Undefeated on Tuesday night before the Warriors’ 106-94 win over the Utah Jazz in the opener of their life second-round playoff series. […]
Green said part of the reason there are incidents such as the one Jones had in Boston is because sports leagues “empower hecklers” by not disciplining them strongly for disrespecting the players. The two-time NBA All-Star added that more protection is needed for the athletes and that they also receive hate from fans over their high salaries. […]
“Cheer for your team. Do what you want. But if I’m playing in the game and you’re cheering for your team, it doesn’t give you the right to say whatever you want to say to me,” Green said. “This is my job, and I can’t go to your job and say whatever I want to you. If I went to someone else’s job and said whatever I wanted to say, I’d get arrested for harassment. It’s a fine line. I don’t think any league does a great job of making sure that athletes are protected.
“The fans are great, but at times I think the leagues empower hecklers to say whatever they want to us. We are in a position where if you naturally react, you’re screwed, you’re losing money. But there are great fans out there, and all fans shouldn’t be put in that category.”
Green’s comments come a week and a half after the NBA fined Houston Rockets guard Patrick Beverley $25,000 for confronting a heckling fan at Chesapeake Energy Arena after the final buzzer of the Rockets’ loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 3 of their opening-round series. That fan was later revealed to be Stuart Scaramucci, whose father, Jay Scaramucci, owns a minority stake in the Thunder. Scaramucci alleged that Beverley “touched him and his wife during the encounter.”
There weren’t any reports of racial slurs being used in that incident, but Green’s overarching point — fans being given free reign to talk reckless to players with little separation between the court and the stands, and little in the way of punitive action taken against fans who step over the line — was one Beverley made forcefully after receiving his punishment.
“If the NBA won’t or help protect players in situations with fans, I’m OK with the hazing, I’m OK with the boos, I’m OK with the other fans rooting for their team, but I’m not okay with the blatant disrespect,” Beverley told reporters after the league issued the fine. “When I’m on the ground, after a foul, and a fan yelling after me, ‘F you, Patrick Beverley, F you, Patrick Beverley, F you, Patrick Beverley,’ waving a clapper in my face, I’m not comfortable with that. So if the NBA won’t protect the players in that manner, I feel the need as a man — as a grown man who has children, who has morals, and who stands up for the right thing, I have to protect myself.”
Even if doing so comes at a cost. From Fred Katz of the Norman (Okla.) Transcript
“I accept the 25 [thousand dollar NBA fine]. It’s OK,” he said. “But at the same time, if it happens again, and the NBA won’t protect its players, I feel a need as a person and as a man with two young boys, who has a daughter, who has strong morals about myself, who was raised by a single mother to protect myself if no one else is going to protect me. And when I mean ‘protect myself,’ I don’t mean go up there and start a fight with a person, because that’s not what all happened.
“I walked up to the guy, and I told the guy, ‘At the end of the day, brother, this is a game. I’m a professional. You’re a man. I’m a man.’ That’s it, and I left it at that. No curse words, no pointing fingers. I just let him know, ‘Just don’t do something like that.’ I have my son, he’s 2 years old back in Chicago watching this, my daughter watching this. Enough with the blatant disrespect.”
How sports leagues can more effectively stamp out racist garbage offered by individual fans at the stadium, though, remains unclear. In addition to throwing offending fans out of Fenway, the Red Sox are now said to be considering lifetime bans for those caught making racist remarks in the park, which seems like it’d be difficult to reasonably enforce. The Orioles’ Jones called for MLB to take it further than that, coming after offenders with stiff financial penalties.
“Instead of kicking them out of the stadium, they need to fine them 10 grand, 20 grand, 30 grand,” Jones said, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today. “Something that really hurts somebody. Make them pay in full. And if they don’t, take it out of their check. That’s how you hurt somebody. You suspend them from the stadium, what does that mean? It’s a slap on the wrist. That guy needs to be confronted, and he needs to pay for what he’s done.”
It remains to be seen what shape a viable potential solution will take, but Green, for his part, believes the NBA, other leagues and fans themselves need to do more.
“Cheer for your team. Do what you want. But if I’m playing in the game and you’re cheering for your team, it doesn’t give you the right to say whatever you want to say to me,” Green told Spears. “This is my job, and I can’t go to your job and say whatever I want to you. If I went to someone else’s job and said whatever I wanted to say, I’d get arrested for harassment. It’s a fine line. I don’t think any league does a great job of making sure that athletes are protected.”
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