by Mike Chen on 11/02/09 at 09:56 PM ET
How many times has the drunk guy next to you yelled, “Ref, you suck!” during a game? How many times were you that guy? Did you think the people around you were offended? I doubt it, and I think the majority of readers would agree.
Ok, well, what about carrying a sign that says that? After all, if we can mock Chris Pronger or Sidney Crosby or whoever else is Public Enemy #1, shouldn’t it be ok to mock the refs? This is pro sports we’re talking about here.
Now put something like “Ref, You Suck” on a t-shirt and, well, that’s apparently over the line, at least at Honda Center.
Let’s back up a bit. The fellows over at RefYouSuck.com have designed sport-specific shirts with that simple message. It’s reasonably lighthearted and I think pretty acceptable for a pro sports event. I mean, it’s not like they shirts say “Ref, I Hope You Get Cancer” or something awful like that.
Well, apparently the Honda Center folks were none-to-pleased about it. From the Ref You Suck blog:
Dozens of fans wearing Ref You Suck! t-shirts to Friday nights Duck Vs Canucks game were given a choice by security: remove their shirts at once, or be barred from entering the Honda Center, regardless of whether they were season ticket holders or not.
On what fans were told was a new policy, security officers’ promptly seized, confiscated and disposed of all posters and stickers bearing the companies slogan. Families, couples, and guests standing in line, were asked to step away from the line entering the arena only to be surrounded by security and told to remove their t-shirts. Some ticket holders were even told to take the shirts back to their cars or drop them in the trashcan.
“We were told that the Ref You Suck shirts would no longer be allowed inside the Honda center” Said a 55 yr old season ticket holder of 10+ years. The guards kept him and his family waiting for “replacement shirts” that the arena donated since they didn’t have another shirt to wear.
Another group of Ref You Suck supporters who demanded a refund for their tickets were given Honda Center t-shirts by security.
Whether the outright ban of Ref You Suck shirts came down directly from the NHL, or from the Honda Center management has not been disclosed. It is clear, however, that fan’s first amendment rights were not considered when the decision was passed.
Pretty ridiculous, huh? Now, did the Honda Center reserve the right to refuse patrons wearing that type of thing? A quick review of building policies says no. In fact, there’s nothing in there about apparel other than a few lines about various acceptable bags. Oh, and “Cowbells are allowed into the building for hockey games only.”
The closest thing I’ve found towards this regards messages on signs. From the Honda Center website:
Signs are allowed as long as they are not derogatory, obscene, do not block the view of other guests and are not attached to a pole.
Well, hopefully these fans weren’t attached to a pole and the writing on their t-shirts didn’t block the views of other guests. Other than that, I suppose “derogatory” and “obscene” are in the eye of the beholder. No slurs, curse words, or other should-be-censored verbiage was used, just the same thing that we’ve heard at sporting events since one caveman was asked to judge a contest between his two cave-buddies.
I decided to compare the Honda Center’s policies to my local building, HP Pavilion. Like the Honda Center, they don’t specify anything about apparel. However, they do have this phrase about behavior:
“Active cheering and enthusiasm is encouraged. However, individual conduct must be bound by law and the rights of others to enjoy the event. Guest behavior cannot be unreasonable so as to offend others or be unreasonably abusive to players, officials or performers. Guests using foul language or appearing intoxicated are subject to eviction. HP Pavilion at San Jose staff reserves the right to evict guests whose behavior seriously affects the ability of others to enjoy the event. Please notify the usher immediately if any such problem occurs. Evicted guests will not receive a refund for their tickets or be compensated in any way.”
Could “Ref, You Suck” be construed as unreasonably abusive to officials? No more than Sharks fans booing Chris Pronger, or heading up Highway 101 where Giants fans happily don all sorts of anti-Dodger swag.
I’d be curious to see if this is an isolated event at Honda Center or if other arenas/stadiums are enforcing something like this should the situation come around. It seems like such a minor thing to blow a gasket over, but hey, weirder things have happened (NSFW) at hockey games.
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