As fans descend on University of Phoenix Stadium for the Final Four, their passion will be on display for all to see. In a tournament where fans have made headlines, it’s been a perfect example of how they can cross boundaries with players. No one experienced that more so than J.J. Redick.
Redick, now a starter for the Los Angeles Clippers, is a former NCAA All-American from Duke where he set records, got his team to a Final Four and won the Naismith College Player of the Year award.
But he was also considered the most hated player in the country and received the most vile and hostile fan treatment that any player has had thrown their way in modern history. It’s why it’s fitting for Redick to partner with Dove Men+ Care to publish the Real Strength Manifesto that promotes civility and sportsmanship and unifying all sides.
“I was really excited to partner with Dove Men+ Care because it seemed like a natural fit. I read the Real Strength Manifesto and it hit home with me because I always felt like I’m fortunate to be a small part of something bigger than myself in the game of basketball,” Redick said. “Whether you’re a fan or an alumni or a player, the manifesto speaks to that and the passion we all have for the game and how we can make it better.”
The campaign comes at a necessary time. This season alone, Kansas State’s president asked fans to stop vulgar chants, a North Carolina fan was escorted out after a verbal exchange with Louisville coach Rick Pitino, the behavior of the Wichita State head coach’s wife led to her being escorted out, and this week Kentucky fans targeted a controversial official.
Redick is an expert on unruly fan behavior after experiencing four years at Duke. When he was in high school, the most vicious treatment he received was opposing fans chanting, “overrated” if he didn’t score 45 points. It pales in comparison to college basketball. According to him, nothing could prepare you as an 18 year old for an ACC road game where obscenities and personal insults were hurled his way.
“I remember my first ACC road game was in Clemson and it was like our ninth game of the year and we come out to warm-ups and the whole lower bowl of Littlejohn Coliseum is packed with Clemson students. I was obviously aware of the anti-Duke sentiments,” Redick said. “But I could not be prepared for those people pointing at me and screaming at me and yelling things. That was hard. It took an adjustment.”
For Redick’s parents, it was very hard. They had to stop letting his little brother and sister come to road games because the things being said to them were completely inappropriate. It just ended up being Redick, his older sisters and his parents dealing with everything.
One of the more hostile environments was at Maryland where the student section chanted, “F___ you, J.J.” and made a derogatory sign about his younger sister.
“There needs to be a dialogue between coaches, fans, players and administrators to promote positivity in the stands,” Redick said. “There’s no way to control everything, and passion among fans is one of the greatest parts of the game, but we should all focus on rooting for our own teams and embrace the positivity that comes with that. That’s why I teamed up with Dove Men+Care to sign the Manifesto.“
Outside of a few instances, he doesn’t remember much of the negative things. His best memories as a player at Duke are the positive fan interactions, whether it was playing at Cameron Indoor Stadium or in the ACC Tournament; seeing all of the fans divided by their school’s colors or going to the NCAA Tournament, seeing half the arena in Duke blue.
With the Final Four on Saturday, it generated fond memories the Clippers star had from 2004 when he led Duke to that same stage. Redick recalls how eye opening it was to go to the open practice and see the arena packed with fans to see them do layup lines and how unifying March Madness was for the team and fans.
“It’s unlike anything else that you can experience as an amateur athlete,” Redick said. “I played ACC and NCAA Tournament games in my backyard — these imaginary games — and when I finally got to experience it in real life, it was better than I could imagine.”
He wrapped up his legendary career in 2006 with a career average of 20 points per game, 91 percent from the free throw stripe and left Duke and college basketball with the most career 3-pointers made and a lifetime worth of trash talking over Johnny Dawkins.
“Out of all the records, my proudest was breaking Coach Johnny Dawkins’s scoring record,” Redick said. “It was the one thing I set out to do when I joined the team, and the best part was that Coach Dawkins was about a foot away when I hit the shot. Nothing compares to that moment. If someone breaks my record one day, it will hurt.”
After seven years with the Orlando Magic, the sharpshooting Redick took his talents to Los Angeles in 2013 and has been playing the best basketball of his career as a starter alongside Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. His 15 points per game and the NBA’s seventh best 3-point field goal percentage has helped the Clippers clinch a playoff spot. But what cause does Redick attribute to his success?
“My last four years in Orlando, I was a really good payer but I wasn’t a full-time starter. I think that’s the biggest attribution,” Redick said. “When I was a free agent after my seventh year in the league, it was really important to me to have the opportunity to become a full-time starter and it was down to the [Minnesota] Timberwolves and the Clippers and obviously coming to L.A. and having a chance to compete for championships and play for Doc [Rivers] and with future hall of famers have all contributed to any personal success I’ve had.”
Redick is now a father of two sons and he knows in all likeliness that they will probably try their hand at following in their father’s footsteps and after what he experienced, who could blame him for being concerned.
“While my real hope is that my son becomes an astronaut, it’s inevitable that he’ll try sports in some capacity. It’s also likely that he’ll have some type of handicap because of his last name,” Redick said. “That said, throughout his life, I just want to focus on showing him that he is loved and I want him to love. If he remembers this, nothing else will matter in any circumstance.”
With the time he has left in his basketball career, Redick has set his eyes on achieving goals both on and off the court that will someday define him as a professional, as a teammate, as a husband and as a father.
“As a player, I want to be remembered as hard working and consistent and competitive and professional and as a person you want as a part of your organization. Those things are really important to me,” Redick added. “But when you become a parent, it changes your perspective. Ultimately my legacy as a human on this earth will be how my sons treat other people. They are my legacy so I hope I can be a good dad to them and a good husband. That’s why I wake up in the morning.”
Key research findings:
By Dove Men+Care
– 8 in 10 (78%) U.S men have seen aggressive fan behavior while attending a sporting event and 7 in 10 (71%) have seen aggressive fan behavior online.
– Of those who have seen or experienced aggressive fan behavior while at a sporting event, 9 in 10 (89%) think that it negatively affects their enjoyment of the game
– Respondents acknowledge the
importance of respect and good sportsmanship for their experience at sporting events as 97% of respondents agree that sporting events are more enjoyable when fans on both sides are respectful and display sportsmanship and 86% say that when fans get rowdy and rude it ruins their sporting event experience.
– 97% of men believe that men can
show good sportsmanship during sporting events without sacrificing their passion for their team.
– Over half (64%) have hesitated at times to bring their child to games because of negative fan behavior.
– 81% of those who have seen
negative fan behavior with their child have had their child ask them about this behavior and 90% state that this has negatively affected their child’s enjoyment of the game.
Joshua Caudill is a writer for CraveOnline, a college basketball and hockey fanatic, a pro wrestling connoisseur and an expert on all things Patrick Swayze. You can follow him on Twitter @JoshuaCaudill85 or “like” CraveOnline Sports on Facebook.
Photos by J.J. Redick and Getty Images