A comment on another forum got me thinking: How much do athletes have the right to protection from spectator distractions? What is the appropriate way to deal with intentionally distracting fans?
I'm torn about some issues. Competitive athletes should have the ability to see past their distractions and not be a whiny sore loser or sue event organizers for losing. But I also dislike the idea of engineered attempts to sabotage an athlete. It's one thing to cheer for your favorite athlete. It's another to deliberately mess with another athlete.
Here are some common issues and my take. What are your opinions?
When it raises safety issues, such as with gymnastics and diving, it should be banned, and spectators violating the policy should be dealt with swiftly and harshly.
But what happens if people take photos anyway? Should Tom Daley have been given another dive because of camera flashes?
Free throw shots
Home town advantage is a given, but with free throws, I feel kind of uncomfortable with the idea of visually disorienting opponent players. It appears the NBA, and its players, accept the practice of fans on the court ends waving to distract a free throw shot. What about rotating disks that screw with a player's sense of orientation? What if people coordinate flashing lights to maximize the visual disorientation?
At what point does heckling become harassment, and even if it is harassment, should it be banned if it does not involve physical threat to the athletes or other spectators?
Dealing with distracting spectators
What should be the rules, who should set them, and how do you ensure that they are consistently enforced? Should these rules be made clear to spectators before they buy their tickets?
Should athletes have a say in it? From this article:
Other spectators' right to enjoy the experienceAs the feisty South African walked toward the next tee, retired firefighter and paramedic Steve Banky asked Sabbatini, "Hey, Rory, still think Tiger's beatable?"
Sabbatini turned quickly, pointed at Banky and barked at police to have him removed. Though Banky uttered nothing remotely crude, did not interrupt play and hadn't even raised his voice, the cops walked him out the front gate.
In 2004, Davis Love was leading in the finals of the Match Play Championship outside San Diego when a fan started verbally riding him. ... Love, No. 3 in the world at the time, wheeled and said he would not continue unless the heckler was identified and a man in a Tiger Woods hat was eventually thumbed.
"I wasn't going to play anymore until somebody got kicked out, because he had already cost me a hole," Love said after the round. "I wasn't going to put up with it. I want to win and I want to play and I want to play fair. You can't have people picking on you."
Should that factor into the issue? Personally, I think it should, but I don't know to what extent. When athletes are heckled and harassed, the other spectators suffer too because they're put in an uncomfortable volatile environment. Heysel is an extreme example and thankfully very rare. But I do feel that by allowing excessive heckling and harassment, event organizers are being unfair to other spectators.