A day’s gone by since the altercation between Russell Westbrook and a Jazz fan that has now been banned for life from Vivint Smart Home arena.
With the dust settled, and a chance to process everything, I was reminded of something I learned from my mom’s example.
In Idaho, on what I think was my 12th birthday, my mom threw a party for me and a few of my friends. I don’t remember anything about the party other than the moment when we were standing around the cake ready to sing happy birthday, one of my friends used the N-word. It was the first time I ever heard someone say it out loud. I think it was some stupid joke, but I can’t remember. All I remember is that I got quiet because I knew it was bad, but I didn’t say anything.
My mom did not stay quiet.
“You can get out of here if you want to use that word. We don’t say that word in this house!”
The boy got quiet and we sang happy birthday after he promised not to say it again.
I’ve always remembered that and have always been grateful for the example of my mom teaching me just how serious that was. But I also can’t help but feel guilty.
Why didn’t I say anything? Why did I stay quiet?
By banning that fan the Jazz set the same example as my mom. “We don’t use that type of language in our house.”
I’m grateful that the organization I choose to cover in my free time is setting that example for the fans. But for those of us who get quiet if we hear a fan crossing the line, it’s time for us to be better and speak up.
Personally, I’ve never heard someone say something racist at a game but I have heard people push it with comments towards players.
We have to be better, guys. All of us. Buying a ticket doesn’t give anyone the right to harass players.
Growing up rooting for this team I’ve always been proud of how loud the arena gets. I would feel a sense of pride when the NBA on NBC would show the decibel levels inside the Delta Center during the Stockton and Malone years. Now, when I go to games as a fan, if I don’t come back hoarse I feel like I haven’t done my job. But with that atmosphere there also comes heckling. Heckling can turn problematic when it’s done by a handful of losers who give a bad name to the vast majority of Jazz fans.
As a fanbase, let’s not let this happen again. If someone is crossing that line, don’t be quiet like I did at that birthday party. Call out the fans yourself or let security know. It’s time to stamp out this problem.
I also understand that a lot of Jazz fans were hurt by social media afterwards. Whenever something like this happens in Utah the entire fanbase, and state, are pegged as racists and jokes about the prominent religion here flood in. For me, as a member of that prominent religion, it hurts. For the large group of Jazz fans not of that religion it’s very frustrating. When that happens my first inclination is to be defensive, to stand up for Utah as a whole, and let people know that that isn’t who we are.
After last night it’s clear that that is not the correct route.
If Jazz fans want to show that it’s truly not like that here then we have to set a higher example for ourselves. Instead of talking a big game we have to show it. We each have to do our part.
As unfair as the criticism feels at times, it’s not unfounded. And even though we can’t control what other people say and do (including a star like Russell Westbrook who may be saying something inappropriate) we can, however, control what WE say and do.
So boo the other team, Jazz fans. Do the thing we’ve always done best. Get loud and support this team that we love so much. But now, let’s be better at what we haven’t been the best at and that’s calling out the bad eggs. It may mean an awkward birthday song, or a glare as someone is walked out, but it’s the right thing to do. And we’ll be better for it.
I also can’t help but get the sense that this may be the start of a positive change for our fanbase. Maybe one day we can get to the point where we’re known as one of the most inclusive fan bases? But to get there we’re going to have to put in a lot of work.