The NBA has spoken on Joakim Noah’s televised slur during Sunday night’s Game 3 against the Miami Heat, fining the Chicago Bulls’ forward $50,000. Immediately, people questioned how Noah received a smaller fine for committing the same sin as Kobe Bryant, who was docked $100,000. According to CBSSports.com, the reason David Stern doubled up on Bryant is because “Kobe’s fine included discipline for verbal abuse of a game official.”
That rationale has been met with lukewarm acceptance, but the sentiment from the league, writers and even Noah himself has been pretty much the same – that the word, regardless of who its hurled at, is unacceptable. After last week’s flurry of coming out announcements made by individuals in high profile sports and media was met with general support and pleasant indifference this was certainly poor timing by Noah.
But what it has opened up is another, much-needed discussion about fan behavior. Noah’s teammates were quick to defend him against the apparently drunk fan who provoked him. There were a slew of other words that Noah could have shouted at the guy and had the same effect, so it’s unfortunate that he chose the one he did. However, it is a reminder that a ticket isn’t a license to scream whatever vulgar obscenities you can think of an athlete just because he’s being paid to sit there.
It should also go as a lesson to the security staff at American Airlines Arena. When a drunk fan is provoking players so badly that Luol Deng says he felt like “jumping in the crowd and hitting him” while others are hitting Charles Barkley with towels, something has to be looked at. There is enough tension on the floor that you can’t risk it getting out of hands in the stands.