Skip to main content

Fans Are Out of Control

The latest incident with Chris Paul's family really drives home that fans need to behave better at sporting events.

The NBA playoffs have brought the rivalries and chippy relationships between teams fighting to win. Unfortunately, they've also brought out the worst in the fans. In Game 4 of the Western Conference Semifinals between the Phoenix Suns and the Dallas Mavericks, several family members of Suns guard Chris Paul's family were harassed and physically contacted by a fan in the crowd. This is per ESPN.

Not a pretty sight to say the least. I hate to be the one with a broad brush but...what is going on with people lately? 

There have been a lot of incidents of people interacting with celebrities or at sporting events in a manner that is not becoming. I recently wrote about a man on an airplane who learned the hard way about messing with former heavyweight champions. There were multiple incidents involving fans crossing the line with Russell Westbrook and his family over the last few seasons. A couple of Indiana Pacers fans were kicked out of Pacers and Lakers game after allegedly wishing death on Lebron James' son. Just two weeks ago, Yankees fans were kicked out after throwing trash and beer cans at Cleveland Guardians outfielders. This is not a pretty sight.

History and Precedent

To be fair, these incidents are not entirely isolated. The most memorable (or notorious) incident was of course the "malice at the palace" in 2004 where fans incited a completely unhinged scene of fans and athletes in a brawl. This is the biggest one that everyone remembers. 

There are multiple documentaries about it. It certainly isn't the only ugly incident involving fans in sports, however. Just the most memorable. It's also very regional dependent. Soccer fans overseas are known for their brawls. In many soccer events around the world, fans are seated by section and often separated by barriers. After games, it's not uncommon for fanbases to be released from the events in a staggered manner, so that opposing fanbases aren't necessarily running into each other on their way to the pub. Why does it get uglier here in the US? Well, a lot of that is because we pay more attention to it here. American sports are contextual. 

I think a lot has changed since the COVID-19 pandemic. I know I risk sounding a little shrill here, but I think most people can agree there has been at least a 5% shift in our society since the pandemic of 2020, and frankly the shift in American politics. Everyone is a little more on edge, a little less forgiving, more emboldened, and tribal. If you combine the shift in our society due to those two reasons; the pandemic and the shift in American politics, you get large swaths of people who are acting out in ways we haven't seen this consistently before. 

I'll step off the pulpit momentarily, but frankly, we need to be better. It's okay to go to a game and give or get a little friendly ribbing from an opposing fanbase. I have dear friends who are San Francisco Giants fans and not once have things been acrimonious. When it comes to total strangers, we should be even kinder. This also extends to the players and officials, as well. If you pay good money for the seats nearest to the players, act like you deserved to pay for that ticket.

And in a case similar to Chris Paul's—leave everyone's mother alone.