Jackson’s profane outburst rekindles questions regarding player/fan relations

There’s no excuses. Reggie Jackson was wrong.

Footage of Jackson unleashing a string of profanity in the direction of a fan caught a viral foothold following the Pistons’ 103-87 loss to the Thunder last Friday. But did Jackson have reason to volley up a smattering of expletives?

In his first return to Oklahoma City since being dealt to the Pistons following a trade request last February, Jackson is seen on video walking to the bench, appearing to complain about a foul call before peering toward the camera and offering a vulgar outburst in the direction of a fan.

The exchange (NSFW):

Jackson was questioned about the exchange following Sunday’s loss to the Nets, vaguely suggesting some fans behind the bench may have provoked his response.

“Fans say some off-the-wall stuff,” Jackson said, according to Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press. “It’s crazy how we’re treated. They get to talk to us however they want. It’s reckless. I wish somebody would say something like they talk to us on the court, off the court. It’s out of control. You wouldn’t talk to anybody like that off the court. They feel protected in the stands. Some fans need to be tossed.”

Jackson’s comments once again shed light on a troubled history of line-crossing fan interaction during NBA games.

Last January, Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade was fined $15,000 by the NBA for making an obscene gesture toward a group of fans in Charlotte who were making increasingly tasteless comments about Wade’s wife, Gabrielle Union, as the evening progressed.

“The NBA is an unbelievable league, and I’m one of the first ones to be doing NBA Cares and all these things in the community, but they need to protect us a little more,” Wade told The Associated Press at the time. “They need to do a better job of protecting players in the arena. It’s open game on us. We’re big boys, we can take it, but everyone has their breaking point.”

The league has ramped up the curbing of negative fan behavior in recent years, particularly following The Malice at the Palace, but the bad apples still slip through the cracks, and they always may, regardless of remediation. As a result, it’s often left up to the maturity of the players to absorb the vile comments and let them roll off their back.

“Players are humans and some of the things that fans say does cross the line,” Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra said. “It doesn’t give you the right to snap back at them with some kind of response but it’s usually at an emotional time. … A handful of times a year you hear it and you see it where they’ve crossed the line and what it requires is you being the better person and not responding.”

In the meantime, count on Jackson to consider his viral exchange as a learning experience. Despite his ill-mannered response caught on tape, he still believes it’s time to put a few select members of the audience in check.

“The fans is reckless; the fans really think… half the time we feel like a caged animal and they can say whatever they want to you. That junk is reckless.”