While it has been great to have fans back in the stands for NBA playoff games and hear the cheers after a big moment or boos after a bad play, there have been three separate instances where fans crossed the line and as a result have been banned from any future events. The first one that took place was during game two in Philadelphia between the 76ers and Washington Wizards where Russell Westbrook was heading to the locker room due to an injury. However, as he was walking to the tunnel a fan threw popcorn on top of his head. The other incident that took place was that same night, this time in New York City at Madison Square Garden between the Knicks and Atlanta Hawks, where a fan spat at Trae Young. The final incident (as of now) took place in Salt Lake City, Utah at game two between the Jazz and Memphis Grizzles where three fans were ejected and ultimately banned indefinitely from future events after they yelled vulgar and racist comments towards Ja Morant’s parents. In all of these cases none of this is ok.
Knicks fans have been heckling Young throughout the series by yelling “F— Trae Young” and “Trae Young is balding”. While those comments are not nice, fans have the right to yell and say whatever they want. To spit at somebody is inhumane and has no place in society. Just because you enter an arena for a game and spend a lot of money does not exempt you from the laws. Ultimately, this fan was banned indefinitely from attending MSG for any future events. While this incident puts a dark cloud over New York City and Knicks fans, this does not represent New York as a whole. In this case, this was one bad apple (no pun intended). Also, people that are up in arms over Knicks fans heckling Trae Young need to stop complaining. This is the Knicks first time in the playoffs in eight years and that is what the atmosphere at the Garden is like when the Knicks are good. The perfect example of this was when Reggie Miller and the Indiana Pacers played the Knicks at MSG and he became a villain to the Garden crowd, specifically to Spike Lee.
In the incident that took place in Philadelphia, a fan does not have a right to throw something at any player, even if he is on the opposing team. If a fan believes is so brave that he can heckle a player and threaten them, what happens once they get confronted by the player. This was explained perfectly by LeBron James when he wrote on Twitter, “By the way WE AS THE PLAYERS wanna see who threw that popcorn on Russ while he was leaving the game tonight with a injury!! There’s cameras all over arenas so there’s no excuse!” LeBron finished by saying with emojis if the shoe was on the other foot then there would be cameras all over the place going after the player. Ultimately, there needs to be the same kind of coverage and outrage to find the fan and make sure they never step foot into the arena ever again just like they would if the player did these actions. While this might be giving those people their 15 minutes of fame, the way you work around that is by shaming them. Do not even bring them on for an interview, just criticize them and shame them constantly to make them feel guilty. Kevin Durant also chimed in on Twitter in response to the events in Philadelphia and New York City by saying, “It’s all fun and games until ya ass banned for life”. players have also expressed their frustration on Twitter by using the hashtag “Protect our players”.
The situation that occurred in Utah is inexcusable. While you can heckle and say whatever you want, you can never heckle by yelling racist remarks. On top of that, there is no reason to go after Morant’s parents when they are just trying to enjoy the game and watch their son play. Morant echoed this on Twitter by saying, ” My family should be able to cheer for me and my teammates without getting inappropriate s— said to them”. While the Jazz have only said so far that those fans were banned indefinitely, it should be a lifetime ban moving forward. While all of these incidents have only resulted in the fans being banned indefinitely and the fan in Philadelphia losing his season tickets, they should all receive a lifetime ban.
There have been a lot of questions as to why there have been a lot of fans acting up at the games and the answer is simple. First, it has been two years since fans were able to attend playoff games due to the pandemic. I believe that people are just thrilled to be able to get out of their houses and go to games again that they just do not care because they had sports taken away from them. Another reason as to why is because betting has become a huge part of sports as it has gotten to the point that you can live bet on an app during the game. So if people are sitting close enough to the action, they could voice their displeasure if a player messes up and costs them money. Another possible reason if this is the first time that fans are fully back since before COVID-19, which is when the murder of George Floyd took place in Minneapolis, Minnesota. As a result of this, athletes have expressed their anger over the situation and racism overall. This now allows the people that are against the players speaking out and in their eyes should just “Shut up and dribble” to show their own anger towards the players speaking out and heckling them. This behavior is still inexcusable and needs to result in lifetime bans and possibly even get handed over to the police for a possible arrest. The one that should have resulted in an arrest was in New York where the fan spat on Trae Young. However, Young has made it clear that he does not plan to press charges. However, when somebody spits at somebody that is harassment and is not acceptable. Commissioner Adam Silver has weighed in on the three situations and called for zero tolerance where a fan will be banned from an arena if this takes place to set an example. He also did not rule out the possibility of the police getting involved by having criminal charges handed down. Finally, Silver brought up the idea of changing where security should be placed to avoid situations like these in the future.
I understand that the NBA has put out statements condemning the inexcusable acts by the fans, however this will not stop until the league or teams take more control.