#Breaking Black: Marcus Smart and the ‘sportsmanship police’

I have been on a self-imposed hiatus from most forms of social media in recent days. Given the spate of writing assignments before me, I have tried to be selective about how I spend my downtime. However, I do stop in from time-to-time– sometimes with a word about something I am watching and at other times to post a link to a column written by others I respect.

Yesterday, as I tracked responses to the #StopTheFight hashtag for column research, I stumbled upon a debate in full swing regarding college basketball standout Marcus Smart.

My son and I happened to be watching that game. Even in the heat of play, it was off-putting to witness Smart physically push a fan. I correctly figured that he would be suspended from several games, potentially costing his team in the playoffs. If he had been an NBA player, surely the fine would have been in the tens of thousands. And rightly so.

What I did not predict, and probably should have, was the level of consternation demonstrated by some on social media. Here we go again, I thought, remembering the upheaval around Richard Sherman.

The so-called “super fan” had, according to some reports, called Smart the dreaded n-word. The fan himself claims he said “piece of crap.” Neither would have been appropriate.

In the interest of discussion, and in the context of the social media debate, let’s say the n-word was hurled. Would Smart have been right to respond in that manner? In a word: no.

But, I cannot say that I blame him.

In fact, I cannot say with any degree of certainty that I would not have responded with even greater force.

“You would still be able to hear me cussing and swinging all the way from Texas,” I tweeted.

Then too, there were notable comparisons to how baseball legend Jackie Robinson would have handled himself in a similar situation. Smart, they said, should have brushed it off.  Such comparisons are spurious, at best, and leave out the fact that in 1947 Robinson lived under very different constraints. We do not know how he might have responded because the consequences would surely have been different.

Robinson would have almost certainly been lynched and his assailants would never have been charged or jailed for the deed. Rather than gracing the front of now priceless baseball cards, Robinson’s face would have been on propagandist postcards and sold in a Deep South dime store.

That said, I agree with Smart’s suspension. There are consequences for that kind of behavior, even when we understandably empathize with the action. The “super fan” should be banned from the Texas Tech campus and all collegiate sporting events for the foreseeable future. To welcome him back would be to condone his behavior, no matter what he said.

And lastly, I have to agree with Daily Beast columnist Jamelle Bouie.  During an exchange with Jonathan Chait, a columnist from The New Yorker and one of the most brilliant writers in the contemporary discourse, Bouie said: “I’m uncomfortable w/a white guy debating how a black guy should react to situation a white guy won’t ever be in.”

Sometimes a sense of entitlement will get you a gift you never expected

Editor’s Note: This has been a #breakingBLACK column. Goldie Taylor is a featured Grio columnist and her #breakingBlack columns will regularly appear every MondayFollow Goldie Taylor on Twitter at @GoldieTaylor, and join the discussion at @theGrio with the hashtag #BreakingBlack.