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What’s happened to our civility?

Disgraceful fan incident at Jazz-Grizzlies playoff game damages Utah, Jazz fans’ reputation

Utah Jazz fans cheer during a game at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City on Friday, April 2, 2021.
Utah Jazz fans cheer during a game at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City on Friday, April 2, 2021.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Whatever happened to simple civility?

This past week’s disgraceful garbage fan talk toward the family of Memphis player Ja Morant at a Utah Jazz home game was the latest sickening, stupid, lame-brained mouth running that’s getting out of hand.

What’s wrong with people? How can we make folks accountable? How can we stop this dribble at our sporting events?

The Utah Jazz organization took quick action, banning three fans from Vivint Arena after this latest incident. Good on ’em.

A press release described it as a “verbal altercation,” but as James Dator of SBNation put it, this was more than that.

Fan smack is part of games. Some of it is funny and entertaining. Some of it is lewd, other parts are just stupid. But these kind of incidents give Jazz fans and the state of Utah a bad reputation.

Jazz fans are passionate, perhaps the most engaged of any in the league. These kind of acts by a few shouldn’t coat all fans with a broad brush. But it kind of does, and that is maddening.

This comes on the heels of a sad reminder of a similar incident in Vivint Arena in 2019, involving two Jazz fans and Russell Westbrook, then of the Oklahoma City Thunder. The fans were tossed and banned from the arena, and later sued the Jazz and Westbrook for alleged defamation. A judge threw the case out on Thursday.

This also comes right after a fan in Philadelphia poured popcorn on Westbrook after the Washington Wizards star left the floor with a sprained ankle Wednesday. Also this past week, a fan in Madison Square Garden allegedly spit on Hawks guard Trae Young.

This behavior is both a national and global issue, not to pick on Utah. We’ve seen international soccer fans behave outrageously for years, elevating the out-of-control motif to insane levels.

There’s a reason the word fan comes from the word fanatic.

But come on, people.

We have to be better than this.

We’ve been cooped up without in-person attendance at sporting events for a year. We’re just getting our coming-out party.

And this stuff is classless, hurtful and just sad.

Don’t let it define us.

Perhaps our lockdowns have fueled some pent-up frustrations. Many restaurant lines have longer waits. Services are curtailed because there is a lack of employees. Our supply lines have been restricted and delayed; just try to buy a piece of plywood at the hardware store these days.

Our airports are getting crowded. Tempers are short. Airlines have seen passengers lose it and start fights. Just last week a Southwest Airlines flight attendant had her teeth knocked out by a woman after she was asked to put up her tray for landing. Other passengers said the attendant was unprofessional and provoked the reaction.

Loss of patience. Unruly action. Lack of composure.

That’s where we’ve gone, folks.

And it has to end.

Let’s take pride in how we treat our guests. Be loud, be passionate, get creative, but leave the gutter talk where it belongs.

I’m proud of this state. We have tremendous people here from all walks of life, all nationalities, races, religions, cultures and backgrounds.

Generally speaking, you’ll find Utahns to be among the kindest, most generous, charitable people anywhere in this country, and I’ve been coast to coast looking at faces, meeting people eye-to-eye in airports, restaurants, stadiums and arenas. Utah is hard to beat for its ambiance and the innate grace of its residents, from St. George to Logan and all points in between.

We can be proud of that.

And that’s why this incident at the Jazz game is so frustrating.

You buy a ticket to a game to cheer, yell, scream and have fun. You don’t have the right to make it into something hateful and hurtful like this.

Maybe as a society we’ve grown into this. We allow so many unnamed anonymous posters on social media to bully and insult others like it’s some kind of game, a fun way to pass time.

It takes a small mind to insult. Civility is something we should have just by being citizens of this world, breathing and mixing with neighbors.

In the 1700s, English poet Lady Mary Wortley Montagu wrote, “Civility costs nothing, and buys everything.”

It takes grace to embrace fandom with respect.

We need more of that in sports.