Suspensions alone won’t improve sports behavior

The NBA has taken the first of what must be many steps to bring civility back to its arenas. The lengthy suspensions handed out after Friday’s repulsive brawl between Indiana Pacers players and Detroit Pistons fans were a tough, appropriate response.

But there is so much more to do. The NBA, other sports associations and the rest of us must do the real work of resetting expectations for how we deal with each other. Behavior in sports venues is exaggerated by adrenaline and alcohol, but it’s a reflection of how we interact outside the arena. Why should we expect fans and athletes to act differently than the rest of society?

Fighting has become a sad staple in today’s sports world. Hockey, football and baseball have all seen infamous examples lately, and there can be little doubt that young athletes are influenced by it. Similarly, fans are more emboldened to taunt than ever before. Examples have filtered down from the pro and college ranks to the high schools.

Fists are an extension of angry words, and angry words surround us these days, particularly on the airwaves. Political discourse seems to get more aggressive and bitter every year, fueled by the in-your-face style of some cable TV and talk radio shows. Our towns seem less connected, and cultural silos keep people from getting to know and appreciate each other. There’s too much “them” and not enough “us.”

Our key institutions of learning – schools, churches, and especially families – have a leading role to play in teaching respect, real respect that’s rooted in kindness and trust. At the same time, they must continue to reinforce standards of behavior that allow us to deal effectively with each other. When fans at high school events cross a line by personally taunting athletes, they should be removed.

Pro and college leagues also must expect and enforce higher standards for their players and fans. Individual teams need to provide ample security to keep crowds under control, and they should insist that fans adhere to an acceptable standard of civility. The Mariners have set a good example of this, refusing to tolerate boorish or obnoxious behavior in the stands at Safeco Field.

The NBA, in suspending one player for the season and two others for about a third of it, responded swiftly and wisely to Friday’s incident. That, however, mustn’t be the end of it.

Talk to us

More in Opinion

FILE — In this Sept. 17, 2020 file photo, provided by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, Chelbee Rosenkrance, of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, holds a male sockeye salmon at the Eagle Fish Hatchery in Eagle, Idaho. Wildlife officials said Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2021, that an emergency trap-and-truck operation of Idaho-bound endangered sockeye salmon, due to high water temperatures in the Snake and Salomon rivers, netted enough fish at the Granite Dam in eastern Washington, last month, to sustain an elaborate hatchery program. (Travis Brown/Idaho Department of Fish and Game via AP, File)
Editorial: Pledge to honor treaties can save Columbia’s salmon

The Biden administration commits to honoring tribal treaties and preserving the rivers’ benefits.

Editorial cartoons for Monday, Oct. 2

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

Comment: Online retailers should follow FTC’s lead in Amazon suit

The antitrust suit provides a rule book on how to incentivize rather than punish sellers and customers.

Comment: Starbucks’ reusuable cups aren’t so climate-friendly

Some reusable products generate more emissions than the disposable items they’re meant to replace.

Comment: Parental vigilance of social media can go too far

A shift from “monitoring” to “mentoring” can allow teens to learn to make their own wise choices.

Eco-nomics: Climate report card: Needs more effort but shows promise

A UN report shows we’re not on track to meet goals, but there are bright spots with clean energy.

Comment: Child tax credit works against child povery; renew it

After the expanded credit ended in 2021, child poverty doubled. It’s an investment we should make.

Patricia Gambis, right, talks with her 4-year-old twin children, Emma, left, and Etienne in their home, Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019, in Maplewood, N.J. Gambis' husband, an FBI agent, has been working without pay during the partial United States government shutdown, which has forced the couple to take financial decisions including laying off their babysitter. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Editorial: Shutdown hits kids, families at difficult moment

The shutdown risks food aid for low-income families as child poverty doubled last year and child care aid ends.

Sen. June Robinson, D-Everett, left, and Sen. Mark Mullet, D-Issaquah, right, embrace after a special session to figure out how much to punish drug possession on Tuesday, May 16, 2023, in Olympia, Wash. Without action, Washington's drug possession law will expire July 1, leaving no penalty in state law and leaving cities free to adopt a hodgepodge of local ordinances.  (Karen Ducey/The Seattle Times via AP)
Editorial: Robinson smart choice to head Senate budget panel

A 10-year legislative veteran, the Everett senator displays a mastery of legislation and negotiation.

Most Read