Camp fires Day 19: Lions err by booting fan from practice
A Lions fan standing in the top row of bleachers was kicked out of practice Monday morning after he heckled receiver Roy Williams for not running his route to its completion.
"Look alive Roy," yelled the fan, Mike Lazzara, 42, of Novi,
"Huh?" replied Williams as he turned back toward the huddle.
When the fan answered, "If the play's not for you, run your route," Williams walked over to the fence and confronted the man. The two exchanged words for a few seconds "During the season you take plays off. Stop taking plays off," the fan said. "You come out here and do my job, I'll do yours," Williams said before linebacker Paris Lenon ushered Williams back to the field and Lions assistant general manager Martin Mayhew told a member of the team's security detail to boot the fan from practice.
"A guy makes a comment to Roy about taking plays off, which is the truth you guys know it, he knows it, Detroit Lions know it; everybody lets him get away with it and I get kicked out," Lazzara said. "Can you guys believe though, seriously, that they kicked a fan out for just telling Roy to stop taking plays off? Guys, that is the truth. The truth hurts."
While Williams would have been better served waving the fan off, he wasn't at fault here and he insists he has no problem with fans heckling at practice.
"I had no problem with the dude," Williams said. "If I had a problem I would have climbed over the fence and climbed up the stands. I didn't have a problem with the dude. I like to interact with the fans. He had a little problem with me. I didn't have a problem with him, I just wanted to hear his opinion. So it wasn't a big deal to me. I'm sorry the guy got kicked out, but he did that not me."
The Lions, on the other hand, were wrong to expel a fan for jeering, even if a training-camp practice isn't the right forum for negativity. Fans cheered Williams loudly on his way back to the huddle. They were handling the situation themselves. There was no foul language, no threats of any kind, and, according to the fans in Lazzara's section, no immediate complaints about his comments to Lions security, despite a Lions statement otherwise.
"After many outstanding experiences we've had with thousands of fans who have been guests at training camp, a situation occurred during today's morning session involving one fan who behaved in an unruly and disruptive manner," the statement read in part. "Following complaints from fans in the immediate area, members of our security team discussed the situation with the gentleman and explained the appropriate expected fan code of conduct, as set forth by our organization and the NFL. The gentleman declined to modify his behavior and was asked to leave the morning session."
Lazzara said he would have stayed quiet had he been allowed to remain at practice. Still, he said the whole experience hasn't soured him on the organization and he'll continue to attend games.
"I understand it, I'm not oblivious to it," he said. "But jeez, to flat out kick me right out of the whole thing? Just tell me to quiet down, no problem. I don't want to be kicked out, I just want to go to camp and watch camp. I just want to be constructive."