Evidently a Oklahoma State basketball player went into the crowd during a game at Texas Tech and shoved a fan who may have used a racial slur. Here’s where it gets both interesting and sad.
… I have over the years spoken to a ton of former college basketball players who have stories about having racial slurs tossed at them by fans. They are conditioned before games to never go into the stands, and just keep their anger in check, no matter the cost to their mental and physical health. They are also pressured not speak about it to the media after games, to keep up the illusion of college athletics as some kind of innocent, wholesome endeavor. This dynamic, as much as anything, speaks to the utter powerlessness of so-called student-athletes.
6 Moments like this are exactly why the Northwestern football players felt compelled to form a union. “Student-athletes” have no power. They have no grievance procedure. Right now, as we speak, Marcus Smart is being told that the best thing for him, his family and his future NBA draft status, would be to just apologize and take whatever slap-on-the-wrist the Big 12 or the NCAA hands down. The most upsetting part, given the economics at play, is that this is probably good advice. It might not be great counsel for Smart’s mental health, but it is for his wallet.
7 In a just world, Marcus Smart would not be suspended at all. Instead the NCAA would enact a FIFA-style response. That means they would either bar Jeff Orr for life from ever going to another Texas Tech game, or, if it is found out that “the n-word” gets dropped from the stands in Lubbock like it’s open-season on black players, then make Texas Tech play in front of an empty arena for the rest of the season.
I’m as big a First Amendment guy as anyone, but there’s a part of me that feels that when you’re talking about somebody who’s engaged in this sort of activity so often that Dick Vitale knows him and his behavior, we’re past freedom of speech. In the meantime, why doesn’t Texas Tech do something about this guy? Or the conference? And if they won’t… why should student-athletes expect such behavior to be tolerated?