All avid sports fans cherish the opportunity to support their favorite teams in person. Originally from Cleveland, I was excited to watch my hometown Cavs take on the Miami Heat on Thursday night in my first experience at an opposition’s venue.
I quickly realized that visiting fans are not afforded the same rights as their home team counterparts and my ability to peacefully cheer for my team was stifled by both the surrounding fans and officers of the law.
From the moment my friends and I arrived at the AAA we were verbally attacked by Heat enthusiasts simply for rooting for the opposing team. The ruckus quickly attracted the attention of a police officer who forcefully confronted us and instructed us to “keep it down,” while holding her taser as a sign of intimidation. As paying customers we continued to cheer for the Cavs, making sure to never attack the Heat or respond to the barrage of verbal insults hurled our direction.
The police continued to follow our every move, even as we stepped out of our seats during halftime to visit the concession stands. After returning in the third quarter, we were surrounded by six police officers who proceeded to escort us out of the stands and claimed to have heard complaints from other fans. The officers repeatedly used profanity and one yelled at me to stand against the wall while he informed me that he was in possession of a gun. Following a brief discussion which included the threat of arrest, my friends and I decided to cut our losses and leave voluntarily to prevent any further police action.
I have never experienced such discrimination and I never would have thought being a fan could cause it all. This horribly unjustified use of force is far more than police misconduct but a profound statement about the state of sporting events around the country. Sports broadcasters put great emphasis on fans’ influence on the game and their ability to create a “hostile” environment that is difficult for opposing teams to compete in. Fans often wear this hostility as a badge of honor. Lost in the spectacle of the game atmosphere is the sportsmanship that should be an essential part of every athletic event. I think screaming for your team makes you a good fan but yelling at others because of the team they root for only makes you a coward.
Nearby Landshark Stadium was the first major venue to use text messaging to report unruly fans to stadium security. This was hailed as a great advancement and an easy way to improve the fan experience. But before blindly supporting this measure we must understand the difficulty in preventing the disturbance of others while providing justice to fans. The texting system can easily be abused and become a witch hunt for fans that disagree with the majority.
As our basketball season begins here at UM, we must remember to respect the rights of visiting fans. Hostile environments are not achieved through hatred, discrimination or ejection of others, but through a loud and healthy support of your team, whichever it may be. Oh, and that game the police forced me to leave early from? The Cavs won 111-104.
Jacob Crows is a junior majoring in public relations and psychology. He may contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.