Taj Gibson: Joakim Noah Received Verbal Abuse from Drunk Fan
Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah was fined $50,000 for cussing at a fan and directing a gay slur towards him (see the video here). It’s never acceptable to use the language Noah did, he knows that, and that’s why he apologized. But just because Noah’s getting criticized for the incident doesn’t mean he’s the only one who deserves blame in the situation. The fan also should take some responsibility for being out of line.
Forward Taj Gibson told CBS Sports’ Ken Berger that a drunk fan was verbally abusing Noah prior to the slur. “The guy just kept going. I know the crowd looked at the guy too, like, ‘Come on man, leave him alone. It’s over.’ But the guy just kept going. … It was the usual, but in that circumstances, it was heavy because he was really loud. And he was a big guy, too. He was intoxicated. When I saw him, I was surprised, because he just kept going and going. Normally a fan may say a couple of things and then sit down. But he just kept going and going, and it was Joakim the whole time.”
Having thick skin is part of playing professional sports, but to assume athletes are able to ignore fan taunts and heckling is foolish. We’ve seen Milton Bradley go after fans, and we even heard LeBron respond to one in Detroit. They hear it, and sometimes it’s tough not to react. I’m not excusing Noah, but the fan needs some blame too. Purchasing a ticket (even if it’s for thousands of dollars), does not entitle one to become a drunken jerk at a game. Fans should be held responsible for their actions too and getting hammered and cussing out players is unacceptable, especially with children around.
Additionally, the $50,000 fine is reasonable because it helps send the message that that sort of language is unacceptable. The problem is the NBA is only reactionary with this issue, not proactive. They only respond if the media applies pressure to them. If this video or the Kobe video doesn’t get shown on TV or on several websites, they wouldn’t do anything. Do they fine players for yelling f-bombs, or the n-word which is equally offensive? Of course not. They’re just reacting to public pressure and want to make sure people know they’re doing what’s politically correct. If they really cared about getting rid of the language, they’d fine players in low-profile situations, not just when Kobe or Noah say it during highly-watched games.