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Readers Respond: When Does Heckling Become Harassment?

Responses: 6


Heckling is commonplace in sports. But the Tufts lacrosse team took things too far when they hurled racist and sexually explicit comments at the visiting Smith College women's team. The lacrosse team was punished and apologies were issued, but it brings up a question. When does heckling cross the line into harassment? Is there a place for heckling in volleyball? What Do You Think?

Refs can eject anybody they want

I only ref on the high school level but I assure you that we can eject anyone and everyone from the match. My cut off is when it is personal. Athletes should focus through generic comments about their play. When they yell out # 5 your too fat to move then its personal and they get a warning then an escort to the parking lot!
—Guest Eric

The Need for Accountability

I've heard far worse in professional sporting venues, so part of me believes that athletes, particularly women, should develop a thicker skin. On the other hand, the smaller crowds at volleyball matches results in individual heckling being much more easily heard, and therefore more effective than background crowd noise. In this day of camera-phones, it would be nice for people to record the heckling and post the videos, identifying the school and event at which it occurred. While some frat boys might relish the attention, school authorities won't and there WILL be repercussions. It might not have an effect immediately, but after a few students are dealt with harshly and publicly, it will eventually teach fans what is and isn't acceptable to yell at an athletic event.
—Guest Gary

No Room

Heckling is bullying behavior and therefore harassment. There is no room for heckling on or off the court. As a player, maintain your dignity and do not respond to an abusive opponent other than throwing down a beautiful block or a kill within the 10 line. As a spectator, cheer for your team, or a favorite player.

I don't get it

I'm not sure when heckling becomes harassment. However, I hate it period. I hate seeing it on tv; i hate seeing it in person. I played Division III volleyball and my team was heckled once and it completely through us off our game. I don't mind the crowd yelling when someone serves or waving things around when someone shoots a free throw but when you attack someone personally, I think that's wrong. Not only that, but I don't get how its fun at all. What's cool about saying hurtful things to another person while they're trying to concentrate and play a sport? Aren't we all entitled to play a sport that we love without feeling personally attacked? Like I said, I don't get it and I don't see how its fun to try to purposely mess someone up. And this isn't just for women. I don't like it when I watch men's sports and see them getting heckled as well. Or people yelling out "air ball" when someone misses a basketball shot. The Tufts students obviously took it too far.
—Guest Katie W.


As an high school volleyball official. Once the individual(s) start calling out specific numbers or names. I will warn the coach and captain. The on duty administrator will also be advised about the situation. I've seen college student sections, get right next to the playing area and get ugly. They have the print out with the names and numbers of the players. No mercy. Thanks.
—Guest vbroofrr

When it becomes personal...

I feel like it's harassment when the heckling becomes personal. My line in the sand is what I would and wouldn't say to my mom. If I wouldn't say it to her, I wouldn't scream it at a game. But I understand the line is different for other people--so I would say, when it becomes personal. When the person being heckled takes it personally, the line is crossed. If it has less to do with skill commentary, the game itself, or loud shouting, such as "your serves suck!" or "choke!" and more to do with your gender, perceived gender behavior, perceived sexual orientation, physical threats, racist commentary, etc., then it's personal. And the line is crossed. Can referees eject people in the stands?
—Guest Lance

What Do You Think?

When Does Heckling Become Harassment?

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