Nick Collins Apologizes — But What About the Bears Fan?

NFL players get fined for responding to unruly fans. But what happens to the unruly fan?

The Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers have the longest-standing rivalry in the National Football League, and although players from each team probably couldn’t care less about the 90-year grudge, it’s still a game that brings out intense emotion.

The Bears and Packers added another chapter to the NFL’s oldest slugfest on Monday night when Chicago eked by Green Bay 20-17 on a late field goal. The upstart Bears moved to 3-0 while the Packers — overwhelming favorites to win the NFC North — fell to 2-1.

According to WITI-TV FOX6 Milwaukee, as Packers safety Nick Collins was exiting Soldier Field through a tunnel, a Bears fan spat on him and called him the N-word. Collins, caught on several cameras, reacted to the fan by throwing his mouthguard and shouting back:

On Wednesday, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers offered support for Collins:

“I think fans sometimes forget we’re human. And then some fans think that because they’re behind the rail, or gate, or stadium fence, that that gives them the right to do whatever they want … Fans would probably counter with, ‘Hey, I bought the ticket, I can say whatever I want.’ … I really don’t think that’s right.”

Collins was apologetic for his role in the incident, saying:

“This is a situation that I could have walked away from but (in the) heat of the moment, things happen. Both sides (were) out of line. It was just a situation I shouldn’t have been a part of. I should have just kept walking into the locker room … I’m a grown man. I’m a big boy. And like I said before, I shouldn’t have put myself in that position. Unfortunately, I got caught up in the hype and the emotion from the game.”

Collins will likely receive a fine from the NFL while the Bears fan has a story to tell his buddies. That’s not right.

I don’t condone violence, but this is where the NFL, and more importantly, society gets it wrong. Collins is forced to apologize for responding to the incident when he had nothing to do with starting it. For that, he’ll be about $10,000 lighter come the weekend. The NFL can’t hold the Bears fan responsible, but an example should be made. How about a lifetime ban from Bears games? How about the Bears fan is no longer allowed at Soldier Field, period? How about he gets a second chance to stand toe-to-toe with Collins, spit in his face and call him the N-word? (Somebody watch the door, please.)

I don’t go to football games. Or at least, I avoid them when I can. Too much testosterone, alcohol, buffoonery. It’s an unhealthy mix that too often boils over into altercation. Don’t get me wrong — I’ll tailgate. However, the modern football fan is too emboldened, too entitled. Four hours in a stadium seat swigging from a flask can only mean bad things. I’d rather watch at home and stay away from drunken boneheads.

Players cross the line and the league reacts swiftly. Rightfully so. However, the NFL should do more to ensure unruly fans aren’t negatively affecting the experience for anyone else, players included.

UPDATED Apparently I’m not alone on this. Mark Craig, NFL reporter for the Minneapoli Star Tribune, writes, “In my perfect NFL world, a fan who spits on and/or hurls racial slurs at a player would face the consequences of the player having the legal right to deliver a good, stiff punch to the fan’s over-served snout.” I completely agree.

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