Opinion: Hoops Rule Change Puts Onus On Officials

Opinion: Hoops Rule Change Puts Onus On Officials

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Players will be assessed a technical foul and ejection if they use derogatory language aimed at an opponent regarding race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation or disability. — One of the new basketball rules approved by the NCAA.

Read the above carefully.

Now read the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins shares views with officials Bert Smith (left) and Darron George

Think about what has just transpired.

The Congress cannot restrict the freedom of speech but the NCAA believes it can?

Where in the name of Thomas Jefferson did this basketball rule come from?

In no way are we advocating such behavior on the court, off the court, in the locker room, on the street or in one’s home … but John Higgins should not be charged with enforcing this.

There are things decent human beings do not say to each other, names they do not call each other, slurs they do not hurl at each other… not if someone has dented your fender, taken the last order of lasagna at your favorite Italian restaurant, bought the last ticket to a movie you stood in line an hour to see or blocked your attempt at jump shot.

But the NCAA is not the language police.

Sure, we all know, this was supposed to go out of sports when Jackie Robinson arrived in Brooklyn in 1947.

And we were through with measles when the measles vaccine came on board, only sometimes it doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to work.

Twenty-one years later Tommie Smith and John Carlos felt it necessary to stand on the Olympic podium in Mexico City to accept medals with raised, black gloved fists as a symbolic gestures of the state of racial treatment in the world.

The subject of race and gender and sexual orientation is really not much less today than it was when Jackie Robinson arrived, but again it isn’t going to regulated by our sports leagues.

The lesson begins at home, in church, at the school.

Coaches should teach it in sports, but they really don’t any longer for our sports have gotten out of hand with hot dogging and swagger being the way of the day.

Why, one wonders, would the NCAA venture into this? It was something I had to ask Bob Huggins, West Virginia’s coach who served on the rules committee.

“That’s one of those deals they are doing to prevent brawls,” he answered.

Indeed, far too often you see a physical game turn into a physical confrontation, but in most cases this comes more from a physical act rather than taunting or name calling … although that well may be part of the build up.

This is not something that should be laid upon the striped shirts and whistles.

Their job is to call fouls, not call foul language.

Their job is a tough job, but it is tough because you can’t always believe what you see and you surely can’t believe what you hear when you are looking at the action, the crowd is roaring, the coaches are yelling at you and you may hear only the comeback to what initiated the war of words.

Are we going to reach a point where they will have the officials wired for sound so they replay a tape of what they heard?

This is an area the NCAA should stay out of. If they want to do something, work on the transfer portal or the charge/block rule or keeping academics and recruiting clean.

Home forums Opinion: Hoops Rule Change Puts Onus On Officials

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    Opinion: Hoops Rule Change Puts Onus On Officials MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Players will be assessed a technical foul and ejection if they use derogatory la
    [See the full post at: Opinion: Hoops Rule Change Puts Onus On Officials]


    You bring up some valid points in your article–although a bit overstated in your First Amendment argument (in my opinion).

    I agree that it’s certainly not the job of officials to police trash talking and “offensive” language–but I DO believe that officials should have the ability to toss individuals (in any sport), be it players or coaching staffs that incite brawls and delays action.

    But most importantly, this type of behavior is NOT acceptable in a game (any sport) that is not played in a gentlemanly and sportsman-like manor. ESPECIALLY in the college arena–which is precisely why so many people that feel the same way as I do have stepped away from professional sports. And speaking only my opinion, I’m sick and tired of outright thugs that get away with murder (literally) off the field of play, as well as ON the field of play with their childish temper tantrums.

    I don’t have many answers to the topic at hand, but one thing I learned from a VERY young age, is that respecting other individuals goes a long way, and reining in your anger (“justified” or not)–as does some COMMON SENSE!!!



    I see several problems but free speech is not one.  The first amendment constrains the federal government and the 14th amendment extends constrain to the state governments.  The NCAA is not government so they can make such rules.  WVU, as state school, could face lawsuits if they made such a rule.

    First problem I see is it can be judgment what constitutes derogatory language.  Second, to be enforced the language must be heard but with fans screaming what is said when players are fighting for position near the basket may be difficult to hear.


    This is an area the NCAA  should stay away from.



    I’ll weigh in with a disagreement to Mr. Hertzel’s premise. There are many limitations to total free speech in the U.S., so that’s certainly not an analogy I would draw.

    Also, I don’t have any problem withe participants in a collegial setting being held to some standards of decency.

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