The University of North Carolina basketball team is really good. Lawson is the fastest player I’ve ever seen. But if you were in that arena for the UM-UNC game Jan. 23, perhaps what you remember most is a foul-plagued stretch in the second half.
It seemed as if every bit of contact resulted in a foul against Miami. I specifically remember a ludicrous foul call when Tyler Hansbrough, indisputably a great college player, threw up a crazy shot that hit the side of the backboard. An eternity – if not more – passed and the referees signaled for a foul against the Hurricanes. That may have been the loudest the BankUnited Center crowd has ever been.
At the opposite end of the court, the student section was chanting something about bull manure – I can’t quite remember what it was. In that sequence, several students held up dollar bills. They were not seriously accusing the referees of being paid off by North Carolina, nor were they actually offering them any money. All they were trying to say was something that most of the arena had already stated on various previous occasions: “Ref, you suck.” One of the referees pointed at the crowd and spoke with an arena worker. Unfortunately, I cannot report to you the name of the official. All I know is what I learned from the box score: Sean Hull, Ray Natili and Tim Kelly were officiating. Soon thereafter, a man dressed like a police officer escorted a handful of students out.
I understand how hard it is to be a referee. I also understand that they’re human. They make mistakes and they are prone to subconscious biases. They have the right to make those mistakes as long as they are legitimately trying their best. But those in attendance have the right to disagree and display their displeasure. No one commented or gestured in a threatening manner. The fans were simply criticizing the performance of three professionals in a creative manner.
Of course, there is probably a code of conduct somewhere (not on the arena’s, the Canes’, or the ACC’s Web site, however) that gives referees the right to eject people for acting in a “disorderly fashion.” Perhaps somewhere in the BUC there is a sign that says that. If there is one, I’ve never noticed, and I go to a lot of basketball games. It’s not that I disagree with the content of the perhaps hypothetical announcement. It’s just that I take it for granted that I shouldn’t throw something onto the court. I take it for granted that I shouldn’t say anything about the referee’s race or family. But I also take it for granted that I have the right to say whether I think a grown man is doing his job correctly. Equally important, I take it for granted that I can choose how to say it.
Anthony Vega is a sophomore majoring in finance and English. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.