Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Cheering speech, again

The Cavs, the NBA, and the Cleveland Police Department are taking steps in preparation for LeBron James' return to Cleveland on December 2. These include trying to limit the anti-LeBron messages fans chant, wear, and display:

The team has done research on the various crude and offensive James T-shirts in circulation locally, and officials will be stationed at entrances to make sure no fans enter with such shirts or signs that disrespect James or his family members. They'll also be in the stands, authorized to take away inappropriate apparel. Fans who have such shirts will be required to remove them and then will be given a Cavaliers-branded T-shirt to wear instead. All inappropriate signs also will be confiscated and officials will be on the lookout throughout the game for inebriated fans or fans who are preparing to throw things onto the court.

"We don't want to create a police state," said Tad Carper, the Cavaliers' senior vice president of communications. "We've always had a real energetic, super-charged home crowd and we want to encourage that for every game, including Dec. 2. We want people to enjoy themselves and express themselves, but we don't want fans to cross the boundaries of decency. We're not going to allow profanity and things like that. We'll have no tolerance for anyone trying to cross those boundaries."

Note the imprecision in this all--is it about profanity and decency or is it about disrespect (and what constitutes disrespect for James and his family? What makes something "inappropriate"? Why shouldn't fans have some leeway to harshly criticize a person they see as a traitor to the city? I am not sure who owns/operates the Cavs' arena, so this may be a moot point as far as the First Amendment is concerned. But I will be interested in hearing how this plays out.