When people of color react violently to someone calling them the N-word, they continue to give the ugly word power.
During a 65-61 loss on the road against Texas Tech Saturday, with 6 seconds left in the game, Oklahoma State sophomore guard Marcus Smart tumbled into the crowd while attempting to block a shot.
Smart exchanged words with the fan in the crowd, identified as Jeff Orr, then shoved Orr in the chest. Smart was issued a technical foul, but was not ejected from the game.
Smart had to be restrained by teammates, and it's reported that Orr called Smart the N-word. After the game, Smart was still visibly upset.
Smart is one of the top players in the Big 12, but he's shown problems controlling his temper in the past. During a game in January against West Virginia, Smart kicked a chair out of frustration in a four-point performance.
He should have controlled his temper in both instances. As a potential lottery pick in the NBA draft, every game he plays in college is looked at as a job interview. Handling losses and dealing with heckling is key for any potential NBA player.
Being called the N-word does not give people of color a license to react with violence. That word is meant to cut deep, and bring back memories of a time where black people were seen as substandard, or less than human. By reacting with violence, we're continuing to feed fuel to the root of the word.
By walking away and ignoring the reported comments from Orr, Smart would've shown more character and integrity.
As a 23-year-old black male, I know that Smart's reaction is how some people expect a person of color to react to being called the N-word. As a 20-year-old, I might have reacted the same way, but that does not make Smart's decision to shove a fan the correct one.
Smart does not have any off-the-court run-ins with the law. Heading into the season, there were no questions of his character. Now, however, he could be viewed as an angry, childish person who cannot handle his emotions during his team's four-game losing streak.
Smart was eventually suspended for three games by the Big 12 for his actions.
Comparing Smart's incident to the "Malice in the Palace," where Ron Artest (now Metta World Peace), Jermaine O'Neal and Steven Jackson attacked fans during a game against the Pistons in 2004, is completely off base, however.
Smart is still an amateur, a student-athlete, not a professional basketball player. Do I think fans at pro sporting events can say whatever they want, because they paid the price of admission? No. But pro athletes know what to expect when traveling to visiting stadiums.
Orr is a grown man yelling obscenities at college kids. He should be held responsible for his role in the altercation, and Texas Tech should reprimand him as well.
I understand why Smart would want to confront Orr for what he said. But in the long run, Smart is the one who could lose millions as his draft stock gets put into question -- not Orr.
The lasting effects on Smart's reputation will not become clear for some time.
Part of me is saddened that Smart didn't avoid a physical confrontation all together and walk away. Hopefully everyone involved learns and grows from the incident.
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