While people worry about the big money in athletics causing players to seek union membership to cash in, the real worry should be about players turning to unionization for protection.
Marcus Smart probably cost himself a great deal of money losing his cool and going after a fan in the stands at Texas Tech but there is a bigger issue here.
Skim the Texas Tech boards, they knew who it was and the nature of what was said to Smart. The guy is relatively famous among Red Raider fans for crossing the line with his heckling. Texas Tech had to have known the history there, yet what steps had the university taken to protect visiting players from a person known for crossing the line? It took an ugly incident that easily could have been much uglier to get action. The action being the person is booted from the remaining games this season. Will he be back and close to the action next year?
Smart just wasn't left out to twist in the wind by host team Texas Tech. His own coach let him down. Where was Cowboys head coach Travis Ford during all this? Watch the videos that are available everywhere. He wasn't pulling Smart back, he wasn't sending Smart to the bench nor the dressing room. He was nearly half the court away jawing at a ref. Instead of trying to protect his player and defuse what could have gotten worse, he stays away from the action doing nothing.
Meanwhile at Arizona State, an Oregon player, an assistant and a trainer were spat upon by Arizona State students. The police snagged one student but it is not known what happened afterwards since the visitors from Oregon declined to press charges.
I've come to know some hard core hecklers over the years and they are more than able to send their message without profanity, race, religion, or sexual orientation being part of the banter. They do their thing without spitting or throwing things. It's not my thing but if it's family safe, no one should care very much.
The people crossing those lines are the problem for college athletics and schools have a duty to make sure those who cross the line are removed from the building. More importantly when the person crossing the line isn't a student, they are almost certainly a high value donor because of their proximity to the court or field. Their value as a donor should never out-weigh the image of the institution.
Ideally there would be no one crossing the line from the stands but when it happens, colleges owe it to the game and to the players to do the right thing swiftly and firmly.
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