This past Saturday, Oklahoma State’s star point guard Marcus Smart may have made worst decision of his career when he decided to shove a Texas Tech fan standing on the baseline with 6.2 seconds left in the Oklahoma State Cowboys’ eventual 65-61 loss to Texas Tech Red Raiders.
ESPN provided footage of the incident involving Smart and the Texas Tech fan:
After investigating the matter, Smart has been suspended for a total of three games for shoving Texas Tech fan, Jeff Orr. It is during this three game suspension, that he will miss Oklahoma’s State upcoming games against Texas, Oklahoma and Baylor but he will return to the court on February 22nd, when the Oklahoma State Cowboys face the Texas Tech Red Raiders for the second time this season.
However, looking back at the incident at hand, you can clearly see on the footage above that Smart attempted to make a play on the ball in the closing seconds of the game when he fouled Jaye Crockett on a breakaway lay-up attempt which is how he landed on the ground. From what I can see, he was helped up by one fan, but apparently something someone said behind him caused him to turn, confront and push another fan.
Now it was reported by multiple media outlets, that the Texas Tech fan, Jeff Orr said something in appropriate or vile to Smart which is what caused Smart to turn around and confront him. Early on, there was a lot of speculation that Orr used a racial slur but according CBS Sports Jeff Goodman, Orr made a statement saying that he did not use a racial slur when talking to Smart but he did regret calling Smart “a piece of crap”:
Jeff Orr: "My actions last night were inappropriate … I regret calling Mr. Smart a "piece of crap."—
Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) February 09, 2014
Jeff Orr also said in the statement that he denies using a racial slur to Marcus Smart.—
Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) February 09, 2014
Although Orr says in his statement that he didn’t say anything racial, there is a lot of speculation by fans and even media that he said much more to Smart besides telling him that he was a “piece of crap.” However, without further evidence, there is no way to prove or disprove Orr’s statement.
It honestly wouldn’t surprise me at all if Orr said something more to Smart, whether it be a racial comment or something else inappropriate but that doesn’t change the fact that this was unacceptable behavior by Smart, which is why I have no problem with him being suspended for three games. I’m not condemning him, I’m simply saying that he has to learn how to control his emotions better because he can’t put his hands on someone for saying something inappropriate or vile to him. Plus it’s situations like this that could easily destroy his career.
I personally like Smart and I believe he is a fabulous player with a bright future but in the future he has to use better judgement. I know he is facing adversity and frustrations this season but he can’t allow those type of feelings to dictate his future and influence bad decisions like pushing a fan because he said something vile or inappropriate because at the end of the day, Smart is only hurting himself and his teammates. Now that Smart has now been officially suspended for three games, it proves my point that Smart has only hurt himself and his teammates.
Now I’m not saying that this incident will stop Smart from making it to the NBA but this incident could change the way some NBA scouts and coaches look at him and evaluate at him. Again, I am not condemning him, I am simply saying that Smart has to ask himself, was shoving that fan because of something he said worth him putting all of his hard work at risk. I’m sure Smart has asked himself that and hopefully he will learn from this experience and do better in the future because there is no doubt that this kid has a bright future, as I mentioned in a previous article before the season started.
From what I saw at the press conference, Smart appeared to be visibly sorry for his actions but was willing to take responsibility for his actions and accept the consequences that came with his actions. He also seems ready to make the necessary changes to make sure that this doesn’t happen again.
“I want to apologize to the fan, whose name is Jeff Orr, I want to apologize to him, my teammates, my coach,” Smart said at a press conference Sunday evening in Stillwater, Okla. “This is not how I condone myself. I just can’t let that happen again. It’s a lesson I’ll have to learn from. It’s all upon me. I truly apologize to all those that are important to me. I feel I let my teammates down. This is not me, and I really do apologize for it, and I’ll take responsibility and the consequences that come with it.”
Oklahoma State head coach Travis Ford also made a statement, clearly showing his support in Smart.
“I know Marcus Smart. I’ve been around him pretty much on a daily basis for two years, and undoubtedly, no question, was not one of his finer moments, but Marcus Smart has had many great moments as a person, as a player, and I know Marcus Smart’s heart.” Ford said. “I know how he’s hurting. I know how regretful he is right not. Those are the things that make me love Marcus Smart. Marcus knows he made a big mistake last night.”
Ford also added that he wanted people to remember that Smart made a mistake, like we all do but that doesn’t make Smart a bad person.
“The majority of the time, he’s conducted himself as a tremendous young man but he’s made a mistake.” Ford said. “I am very confident, extremely confident, because I do know Marcus Smart, when he comes back, he’s going to gain everybody else’s trust that he’s lost. … Marcus has my full support. Unwavering support.”
Which leads me to the fact that once again people are too quick to condemn others especially those in the spotlight for their actions. I understand everyone has a right to their opinion and to feel the way they do but that doesn’t give anyone the right to call Smart a “thug” or anything else inappropriate and vile. Was Smart wrong for what he did, regardless of what was said to him? Absolutely, but that doesn’t mean we as people should hop on social media and immediately attack him and call him out of his name. First remember that he is human, therefore he will make mistakes just like we all do, so we have no right to attack him or call him out of his name because of that mistake. So while we may all have our own opinions on Smart and this particular situation, do your best to be appropriate and respectful when giving your opinions.
For those who are saying that Smart should have gone to the NBA instead of coming back for his sophomore season so he could avoid this situation, I must say I disagree. I think he made the right decision coming back. Why? Mainly because he is facing adversity this season which is something he needed to face before heading to NBA. I’m not just talking about this current incident with him pushing a fan, I’m referring to every struggling moment that he has gone through this season that he didn’t go through last season as a freshman. I honestly feel the adversity he is facing this season, will not only help him during his professional basketball career but during his life in general. He is learning how to become a man on and off the court right now and I much rather him go through it in college where he has the chance to make up for it and learn from it, then in the NBA, where he only get so many chances to prove his worth and make it.
While most of us are focusing on Smart’s three game suspension, I encourage you all to think about what Orr said to Smart because that matters as well and he needs to face some form of consequences for his part in all of this too. We may live in a free country and have freedom of speech but that doesn’t mean we have the right to say anything inappropriate or vile to anyone. I understand that sports will always involve plenty of emotions but as someone who is a former student athlete and has worked in sports media for a while now, I must say the things that I hear fans say and chant to players and coaches now-a-days during games, is absolutely ridiculous. I understand it’s the fans job to elevate their team and make the opponent uncomfortable but that doesn’t change the fact that fans don’t have right to insult players and coaches, whether it be during the game or when the players are heading through the tunnel to the locker-room.
Overall, both Marcus Smart and Texas Tech fan, Jeff Orr are wrong because they both played a part in this incident. Smart has received his punishment, accepted his punishment and taken responsibility for his actions. At this time it remains to be seen what type of actions will be taken against Orr, if any actions are taken at all.
The NCAA should honestly take this incident as a lesson learned and be thankful that this didn’t turn into something bigger because typically when you get players in the stands, you end up with a brawl involving fans and players, just think back to the Pistons-Pacers brawl better known at the “Malice at the Palace.” The unfortunate part is that regardless of whether that fan is dealt with or not, there will still be fans, who say and chant inappropriate and vile things.
However, for now players must learn how to handle their emotions and frustrations in those type of situations because if they don’t, they will only be hurting themselves, their team and possibly their own futures. There really needs to be something done to keep this from happening again or something far worse from happening but until that time, players must learn to not let what fans or even people say to them or about them get to them because most of the time they want to bring you down to their level, so just walk a way and let your game do the talking.
Written by LBeasley (Lauren Beasley), Sports Contributor for Radio One Detroit