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Friday, March 07, 2008
USA Today on Fan Behavior

I provide the Opposing View in a debate in USA Today over speech and behavior by college basketball fans. Nothing new from either side, but a quick distillation of competing positions.


Prof. Wasserman,
Interesting view. Is there a difference between what speech a public university can regulate compared to a professional team or other private entity. I assume that a university is considered a state actor, and therefore would be subject to First Amendment scrutiny if they regulated the speech. Is this correct? If so, does this allow professional teams to limit their fans speech where a public university cannot?


Anonymous Anonymous -- 3/07/2008 2:31 PM  

I have written on this extensively, both here and in a number of scholarly articles. Yes, there is a difference between a public university (subject to the First Amendment) and a private university or professional franchise (not subject to First Amendment restrictions). For professional teams, my argument turns to the fact that many play in publicly owned and/or publicly financed arenas/stadiums, which I argue makes them state actors, at least for some purposes, thus subject to the First Amendment.

Blogger Howard Wasserman -- 3/07/2008 2:50 PM  

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Anonymous casino -- 3/07/2008 9:50 PM  

Universities can deal with students rather easily.

Move the student seating sections or end the practice of free or reduced price tickets for students. Not steps that develop long-term growth of the fan base.

The key is confrontation.

Items hit the court? Do the same thing the NCAA suggests for lightning strikes. Stop play immediately, send the teams to the dressing rooms and suspend the game for 30 minutes. Go through warm-ups and resume the game. Second incident. Clear the stands and finish the game.

Someone throws things in the stands, arrest and eject if they can be identified. Can't identify? Follow the lightning rule.

Profanity is an issue have a senior usher or staff member confront it by using a script like this

"We've had complaints about the profanity you are using. I do not want you to be any quieter, if you can can get louder get louder, the team needs the help, it's just that some of the words you are using are
offensive to others here pulling for the team and makes them uncomfortable to be here with their family and future fans."

If that doesn't work nothing constitutional will work. However depending state law defining public intoxication usher may identify and report to police bad actors who are intoxicated.

Blogger Mark -- 3/08/2008 10:08 AM  

i was at the Miami at FSU basketball game earlier and before the game started, the PA said "neither racist or sexist remarks will be tolerated."

Is that an appropriate time/place/manner restriction?

Does it matter if the Seminoles play in a facility the state doesn't own?

Anonymous Anonymous -- 3/08/2008 10:52 PM  


It is not because it is not content-neutral; it is restricting two specific types of speech based on what is being said and how people likely will react. If the First Amendment point were to be pushed, IMHO, such a blanket restriction would not hold up, because much racist and sexist speech is constitutionally protected. And yes, as I said in Comment # 2, if the game were in a privately owned facility, no First Amendment analysis comes into play at all

Blogger Howard Wasserman -- 3/08/2008 11:17 PM  

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Anonymous Anonymous -- 4/06/2008 6:01 PM  

Haha, I've never read such entertainment than a political debate!

Anonymous GrantG -- 7/15/2008 7:11 PM  

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