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Roy Williams Is Not Here to Kick You Out of Your Seat

It's forty-eight hours since the Presbyterian game, and the internet has officially lost its collective mind. At least the sportsblogging segment of it has, as more vitriol is being thrown at Roy Williams for confronting a heckling fan than anything this side of philandering golfers. A Sea of Blue has a pretty thorough rundown of the Great Freakout, and if that doesn't wear you out you can join the legions turning to the Constitution or, well, being State fans. (No link for the State fans.) Even Ken Pomeroy loses it a bit:

Actually, the answer is, "No," he had no legal right to remove that particular fan.

Tru’s incorrect answer is an understandable error, because it would be the correct one were the University of North Carolina a private institution, and were the Dean Dome a privately owned hall. If that had been K at Duke, for instance, the fan could be removed, and his only remedy would be to sue to collect the cost of the limited license he had purchased in the form of the ticket.

Unfortunately for Roy, the Dean Dome is owned by the citizens of the state of North Carolina, and Roy Williams is a government employee who was acting within the scope of his employment as an agent of the state of North Carolina. The Smith Center is clearly a limited public forum for the purposes of first amendment analysis.

These being the case, the first amendment to the United States Constitution (as applied by the Supreme Court, anyway) forbids Williams (and every other government agent) from conducting "viewpoint discrimination." That means, if, as a government actor administering a public forum, Williams instructed a citizen to be removed from the facility based on the content of that person’s speech, then Williams has in fact violated that citizen’s rights.

It is clear beyond peradventure that Williams did in fact have the fan removed based on the content of his speech. I heard the press conference, and he said (loose paraphrase), "I just don’t think anybody should be able to come in here and say something negative about our players."

That is TEXTBOOK viewpoint discrimination, and it is absolutely forbidden and unlawful. The man did not yell, "Fire," or make a racial epithet, or even say anything vulgar. He apparently yelled, during a lull, "Don’t miss it, Deon." And for this, he was placed in the custody of the Gestapo and escorted by armed persons out of the building. That flat out gets my libertarian streak going.

The fan has an action for the clear violation of his civil rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. Section 1982, and I wish he would read this comment and seek redress. Attorneys’ fees come automatically with the victory under that statute.

Mountain Man Roy needs to man up and apologize and kiss the guy’s ring before he sues.

by Ken Pomeroy on Dec 14, 2009 1:18 PM EST up reply actions   0 recs

So that's one perspective on the matter.

The problem is, however, that the guy wasn't ejected for saying "Hey Deon, miss it." After all, anyone whose been to the Dean Dome with any regularity has heard opponents say much worse. He was tossed because of where he said it from, a seat that apparently wasn't his:

"First, Coach Williams didn’t tell security to throw the guy out of the building," Kirschner wrote. "He asked security to see if that guy had a ticket for that seat because he wanted to know who gave him the ticket to a seat behind our bench. Security tossed him because he appeared to be intoxicated and our security (and Duke’s, Maryland’s, NC State’s and pretty much anyone else’s security staffs) eject fans if they think they are."

And that gets to the rub of it. As I mentioned in the comments below, the twenty rows behind the bench are generally filled with former players and friends of the program – I remember seeing Warren Martin in that area a lot when I was in school. Add to that the fact that Williams has shown a lot of interest in the seating arrangements of the Dean Dome, including moving a lot of the older alumni players from the upper deck to the lower level, and in an otherwise slow game, I can see him definitely wanting to know why a Presbyterian fan was sitting there. I presume that's what he meant by "our" seats. Williams never mentions whether the fan was drunk in his postgame comments, because he had no way of knowing. He had security ask somebody about his ticket, and that's the last he saw of the guy.

Even so, discreetly finding out what seat he was in and dealing with it after the game would have been a better option, to me at least. But once it's in security's hands, it's out of Williams'. And within a few hours of it being on the internet, you'd think he'd climbed into the stands himself and started throwing punches, Artest-style. So maybe everyone should back away from the keyboards and stop attacking strawmen, all right?