Cheering for Injuries Didn’t Start in Toronto, But That’s Where it Should End
DeMarcus Cousins said it best.
"F--- them. F--- them," he responded when asked about people who questioned Kevin Durant's heart for not returning from his calf injury earlier in the playoffs.
"Trash. So trash," Cousins went on to say when describing the Toronto fans who cheered as Durant went to the floor with an Achilles injury in the second quarter of Game 5. "But like I said, 'we're only idolized as superstar athletes, not human beings.' It's always about what we can do between those lines. That's it. That's all that ever matters. And then once we lash out and, you know, do human type things, then we're considered bad guys."
But Cousins's words about the people who questioned Durant's heart should be applied to the fans who cheered as well.
I've seen the videos. There are people rejoicing and waving goodbye as Durant holds his right lower leg and then walks into the locker room. There were smiles on people's faces.
To call the people who cheered "trash" is a compliment.
I get that fan is actually short for fanatic, and so it means people are bound to act stupid at times as a result of their love for a team. The Raptors have never won a championship and these people thought they were about to see this team close out an impressive Finals run in their home country that had never even hosted a Finals game before May 30.
To say emotions were running high for everybody in that arena would be an understatement. That doesn't excuse acting like a horrible person. At the point players on the court are telling you to chill, you've gone way too far.
There is a toxic level of tribalism rooted in sports fandom that many of us need to work harder to combat, and Monday night was further proof of that.
Now, it wasn't all of the fans. Some people in the stands tried to tell those who were cheering to shut up and act like they have even an ounce of dignity. Those people should be applauded for doing the right thing and are not catching any ire from this end. Some were honestly clapping for Durant as he started to walk off the court as a sign of respect and admiration and hope that he recovers. Those people acted appropriately.
And this isn't exclusive to Toronto or this one incident. Fans have cheered for injuries in the United States in the past, and there will be fans who cheer for injuries in the future. This isn't about jumping on the Canadians and applying some level of American exceptionalism to this situation.
This is about acknowledging that anybody who ever actively roots for an injury or starts clapping in excitement when they see a player go down in pain and discomfort needs to reevaluate who they are as a person and what their morals are.
Now, we can make this about the fans in Toronto who wanted to act like they were better than everybody else by swearing their fan base was so much more diverse than others, claiming that proves they are a more accepting and tolerant people up North. But there's no point in going through the stupidity of that idea. It's already been done by somebody with more credibility than me on the subject. Nor is there any reason to wax poetic about the irony in people claiming they are better than others just to act with no decency the first time they could.
And as I already said, this level of asshole behavior isn't exclusive to Toronto or Raptors fans. Toronto is just the most recent place we've seen this kind of deplorable response to an injury.
It would also be irresponsible to act like there weren't people in their homes all across the world cheering as Durant went to the ground. And not all of those people cheered because of their love of the Raptors. Plenty reveled at the sight of the injury because of an unhealthy and obnoxious hatred of Durant. Those people suck just as much and should also be ashamed of how they acted.
But we didn't see them on camera waving in person at the hobbled superstar. They at least kept their scummy behavior private in most cases. That doesn't mean it was any less egregious and disrespectful and disgusting. It just means people all over the world didn't get to see what their true colors were. It means they didn't show children watching the game that they think it is acceptable to cheer for bodily harm to another person.
But the thing that is specific to Toronto and that makes me most upset is the hypocrisy of their behavior. Because I'm sure a lot of those same people who gleefully waved at Durant remember when and where Jonas Valanciunas dislocated his thumb this season. And I bet they remember how the crowd in Oracle Arena didn't burst into an ovation as he writhed in pain.
But let's say the folks in Oakland had cheered when Valanciunas exited the game. Let's say they had gotten excited and applauded Draymond Green for inadvertently hitting Valanciunas's hand so hard he had to miss two months of action. Let's pretend they got happy about being the ones who saw Valanciunas play his last game as a Raptor.
I'm sure all of you who waved at Durant would have responded like Cousins.
And that's all I have to say about the people who hurrahed Monday night at the one point in the game that deserved no cheers, or anyone who thinks about doing it in the future.