The greatest (and now, most hated) Cavs player of all time will hear unrelenting boos the whole night, but that’s about as far as the Cavs organization is willing to let their bitter fans take things.
Cleveland, working with the NBA, is taking extra steps to ensure that things don’t get out of hand during LeBron’s return, which will be nationally televised. On top of the additional security hired for the game, fans will not be allowed to wear “inappropriate” apparel or display signage that’s deemed unacceptable.
To ensure James’ safety, there will be dozens of extra police officers on hand, both uniformed and undercover. Officers will be stationed inside and outside the arena, and many will be positioned by the Heat bench and at the tunnel where the Heat players will enter the court. “Honestly, I’m a little bit afraid,” one member of the Cavs organization said. “Some people don’t care. Their mentality is ‘‘I’ve got to get this off my chest.’ There’s so much negative energy around this game. People aren’t excited about the game itself. They’re just like, ‘‘I can’t wait to do something.'”
The team has done research on the various crude and offensive James T-shirts in circulation locally, and officials will be stationed at entrances to make sure no fans enter with such shirts or signs that disrespect James or his family members. They’ll also be in the stands, authorized to take away inappropriate apparel. Fans who have such shirts will be required to remove them and then will be given a Cavaliers-branded T-shirt to wear instead. All inappropriate signs also will be confiscated and officials will be on the lookout throughout the game for inebriated fans or fans who are preparing to throw things onto the court.
Next week, Cavs officials will also appear on local TV and radio to preach their message of calm and reason to the fans. Um, good luck with that.
People will be angry (and drunk), and there’s no doubt that some will manage to make their mark felt during the game.
Draconian as some of these measures may be, they’re a necessity. The League can’t afford for anything to go seriously wrong during such a highly-watched event.