Feb 27, 2014, 12:46 PM EST
I’m not sure how you can really regulate “smack talk” on basketball court or a football field or any other sporting venue. It’s not that lines of basic human decency are not crossed verbally all the time — they are — and when that happens there should be something for referees to fall back on as a tool/penalty. However, once you ask the referees to step in on this issue it creates a new web of enforcement problems — where is the line drawn and how can referees in a loud stadium always be sure what they thought they heard was actually said?
The NFL is discussing imposing a new 15-yard penalty for racial slurs uttered on the field. It may not be approved in that form — PFT’s Michael David Smith suggested to me the NFL might just expand the existing taunting rules and have officials watch for flagrant cases — but it has certainly created conversation around the issue.
Should the NBA follow down the NFL’s path?
“I’m OK with penalties, but then it gets tricky,” he said. “What if I say this? There’s a bunch of things I could say and not get a penalty. If you’re gonna bring one thing in, you gotta put them all in the hat. That’ll work out a lot better.”
Would it really work out better? Should lawyers in suits in the Manhattan league offices be deciding what can and can’t be said on a court?
Shane Battier likes the general idea of assessing a penalty for slurs, but understands it is in the application of the law things get tricky.
“The arena of professional sports is highly, highly, highly emotional,” he said. There are a lot of things I’m ashamed I said, but I probably can’t say them in this interview. At the same time, we are a league that is in the public view and we sell ourselves as a family entertainment business. There are a lot of kids, and whether we like it or not, we are role models for millions of kids out there. To at least address the issue is responsible by the league….
“All of the sudden you’re asking our referees to be grammar judges when reffing an NBA basketball game is hard enough,” he said. “Ask any of them.”
Well, if referees handed out foul shots for incorrect grammar on the court NBA games would be six hours long. They could then come in the media work room and call fouls on a few of us, too.
In an image-conscious league you can bet this is something that will be discussed at the NBA offices. Compared to a huge NFL field, the NBA court is small and some fans sit courtside — pretty much everything said out there can be heard. Or picked up by courtside microphones. Maybe it’s something the league should ask its referees to look at.
But you can be sure the referees don’t want to wade into that water. They have enough on their plate.
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