1 Oklahoma State guard Marcus Smart, a 19-year-old top NBA draft prospect, shoved 40ish-year-old Texas Tech fan Jeff Orr. He has told coaches that he did so after being called “the N-Word.”
2 Orr has a wretched reputation, stretching back years, as a Texas Tech “super-fan” who gets off by yelling horrible things at teenagers. No less a source that Dick Vitale tweeted after the incident, “Guy involved in the Smart situation is NOT a fan as HE IS Classless”. Other former OSU players like John Lucas III have taken to Twitter to testify similarly about Jeff Orr.
3 Orr denies that he used any kind of racial slur, but he texted to a friend, “I kinda let my mouth say something I shouldn’t have, I feel bad”
4 Former Oklahoma State All-American Desmond Mason tweeted that Marcus Smart should have kept his cool, but also said, “I was called the N word EVERY game I played in Lubbock!”
5 I have over the years spoken to a ton of former college basketball players who have stories about having racial slurs tossed at them by fans. They are conditioned before games to never go into the stands, and just keep their anger in check, no matter the cost to their mental and physical health. They are also pressured not speak about it to the media after games, to keep up the illusion of college athletics as some kind of innocent, wholesome endeavor. This dynamic, as much as anything, speaks to the utter powerlessness of so-called student-athletes.
6 Moments like this are exactly why the Northwestern football players felt compelled to form a union. “Student-athletes” have no power. They have no grievance procedure. Right now, as we speak, Marcus Smart is being told that the best thing for him, his family and his future NBA draft status, would be to just apologize and take whatever slap-on-the-wrist the Big 12 or the NCAA hands down. The most upsetting part, given the economics at play, is that this is probably good advice. It might not be great counsel for Smart’s mental health, but it is for his wallet.