Teams ban unruly fans as NBA promises ‘respectful’ environment

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – MAY 26: Nearly 15,000 fans filled the arena tonight to watch the game between the New York Knicks and the Atlanta Hawks during game two of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals at Madison Square Garden on May 26, 2021 in New York City.The New York Knicks defeated the Atlanta Hawks 101-92.

Three NBA teams said Thursday they had banned fans from their arenas for inappropriate behavior — including a Philadelphia 76ers fan who dumped popcorn on Washington star Russell Westbrook.

The Sixers said the fan was banned indefinitely from the Wells Fargo Center and had his season ticket revoked.

The unnamed spectator had triggered uproar on Wednesday after showering injured Westbrook with popcorn as he left the court during game two of the Wizards’ Eastern Conference playoff series against the Sixers.

The New York Knicks also confirmed they had banned a fan who spat at Atlanta Hawks star Trae Young.

And the Utah Jazz said they had banned three fans for comments directed at members of Memphis Grizzlies star Ja Morant’s family during the teams’ game on Wednesday.

An angry Westbrook had to be restrained by security staff from confronting the fan who showered him with popcorn.

A Sixers statement said the fan had been identified and barred from games.

“We have determined that the person involved will have his season ticket membership revoked, effectively immediately,” the team said.

“In addition, he will be banned from all events at Wells Fargo Center indefinitely. We apologize to Russell Westbrook and the Washington Wizards for being subjected to this type of unacceptable and disrespectful behavior. There is no place for it in our sport or arena.”

A furious Westbrook on Wednesday called on the NBA and venue managers to crack down on unruly fans, saying the problem was “getting out of hand.”

“The amount of disrespect, the amount of fans just doing whatever they want to do — it’s just out of pocket,” Westbrook said.

“There are certain things that cross the line. Any other setting … a guy were to come up on the street and pour popcorn on my head, you know what happens.

“In these arenas, you got to start protecting the players. We’ll see what the NBA does,” added Westbrook, who has been targeted repeatedly for abuse by fans in recent years.

The NBA said in a statement the league would implement an “enhanced fan code of conduct” following the incident.

“The return of more NBA fans to our arenas has brought great excitement and energy to the start of the playoffs,” the league said.

“But it is critical that we all show respect for players, officials and our fellow fans. An enhanced fan code of conduct will be vigorously enforced in order to ensure a safe and respectful environment for all involved.”

The NBA promise of a clampdown came as the Knicks confirmed they had banned the fan who spat on Young during a Wednesday playoff game at Madison Square Garden.

“We investigated the matter and determined that this patron, who is not a season ticket holder, did indeed spit on Trae Young, and for that reason, he is now banned from The Garden indefinitely,” the Knicks said in a statement.

“We apologize to Trae and the entire Atlanta Hawks organization for this fan’s behavior. This was completely unacceptable and will not be tolerated in our venue.

“We have turned the information over to the appropriate authorities.”


The Jazz acted after Morant’s father, Tee Morant, said fans directed lewd and racist comments to him and his wife, Jamie, during the Grizzlies’ loss in Utah on Wednesday.

“The Utah Jazz have zero tolerance for offensive or disruptive behavior,” the team said in a statement. “An incident occurred last night involving a verbal altercation during Game 2. Arena security staff intervened, and the investigation resulted in the removal and banning of three Jazz fans indefinitely.

“We apologize to all who were impacted by this unfortunate incident and condemn unacceptable fan behavior. The Utah Jazz are committed to ensuring a safe and respectful environment.”

Ja Morant welcomed the decision in a tweet, and also noted that his family told him they “felt the love from all the other Jazz fans” apart from the three who “went too far.”

© Agence France-Presse

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