Originally Published: September 29, 2015 11:42 p.m.
Syracuse University has kissed its Kiss Cam goodbye - at least temporarily - after one fan wrote a letter to the editor claiming that it sends the wrong message at a time when colleges are campaigning against sexual violence on campus.
During a football game against Wake Forest, Steve Port said he witnessed two instances where women were forcibly kissed by men despite clearly saying no. According to Port, the men were engaging in "horrifying behavior" that made him "sick to my stomach." Furthermore, he says the University is encouraging and condoning sexual assault and "a sense of male entitlement, at best, and an actual instance of assault, at worst." In response, Syracuse suspended use of the Kiss Cam for the following week's game against Central Michigan University. University spokesperson Sue Edson said, "We are taking time to assess the concerns expressed in the letter."
For those of you who are unfamiliar with how a Kiss Cam works, during breaks in the action at sporting events a camera pans the crowd then focuses on a pair of individuals, usually a man and a woman, who are shown on the Jumbotron for all to see. The featured couple is expected to smooch, whereupon they receive a round of applause from the crowd. Reluctant participants are roundly booed. If there is any hesitation or reluctance by either individual - including a head shake or mothing the word "no" - the camera should quickly move on in search of more willing participants. That apparently wasn't the case at Syracuse where the camera lingered until the male - egged on by the crowd - forcibly planted a kiss on the female.
Such action is totally unacceptable, in this or any age. Forcibly touching someone without their permission is battery, a crime in every jurisdiction. It may, as Port suggests, also constitute an assault. But is it necessary to kill the fun for everyone because of one incident and one complaint (it should be noted that neither of the female participants in the incidents witnessed by Port filed a complaint)? In light of some campus behavior, what happened at Syracuse was clearly inappropriate and counterproductive. But if the camera operator had been better trained - or perhaps had more common sense - the result would have been different.
The Kiss Cam has a mostly positive history. Even such notables as former presidents have been caught in - or perhaps encouraged to commit - the act. Two weeks ago Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn were seen smooching at an Atlanta Braves game, a month after the 90-year old Carter announced he had brain cancer. Last year another 90-year old, George H.W. Bush, planted a kiss on his 89-year old wife Barbara during a Houston Texans game.
Even President Obama and First Lady Michelle have gotten in on the act. Three years ago while attending a pre-Olympic basketball game in Washington, D.C., the President bowed to the wishes of the crowd and planted a kiss on his wife.
Syracuse football isn't the only athletic team whose Kiss Cam has run afoul of the PC police. The New York Mets began receiving criticism in April for its propensity to show two players from the opposing team on the Jumbotron. The players viewed the practice as a joke but a number of fans complained it was offensive to gay people. Last week the team issued an apology and said it would discontinue the practice although use of the Kiss Cam would not be suspended. "While intended to be lighthearted, we unintentionally offended some," the team said in a statement. "Our organization is wholly supportive of fostering an inclusive and respectful environment at games."
It should be noted that some teams, including the Los Angeles Dodgers, have shown gay and lesbian couples on the Kiss Cam. And a gay man was shown kissing and then proposing marriage to his male companion at a Houston Astros game.
Are the complaints against the Kiss Cam merely a tempest in a teapot, a sign that if even one person in society could be offended by something that the PC police are obligated to spoil the fun for the majority? Or are we, as Port suggests, encouraging male entitlement? As usual, questions are easier raised than answers are to come by.
Jordan Kobritz is a former attorney, CPA, and Minor League Baseball team owner. He is a Professor and the Chair of the Sport Management Department at SUNY Cortland. Jordan maintains the blog: http://sportsbeyondthelines.com and can be reached at email@example.com.