NBA players have some pretty nasty things yelled at them by angry, frustrated fans during games. Most of the time they ignore it.
But when Russell Westbrook got the double “bird” from a Sixers fan during the first quarter of Philadelphia’s home opener Wednesday — broadcast on national television — the best part was Westbrook’s reaction.
He was rightly ejected for the incident. That man is Richard Harkaway, a urologist in the city. By Thursday night, he had issued a statement apologizing to everyone involved, via Philly.com.
“As a part-time comedian I realize that my words and actions are sometimes inappropriate,” Harkaway said in a statement to Philly.com issued by a personal representative. “In this instance, after standing up to boo and being provoked by Russell Westbrook calling attention to my being overweight, my action in response was clearly inexcusable and I am embarrassed. I sincerely apologize to my fellow Sixers fans, the Sixers organization, my colleagues and patients, and to Mr. Westbrook for my behavior.”
Harkaway had previously written this on Facebook about the incident, via the New York Post.
“Not as simple as it seems. I love to scream at the players and anyone who has been to a game with me knows this. Part of my charm. What you may not have seen on any of the video clips is what started the whole thing, which was Russell Westbrook saying ‘sit down f—ing fat boy’ when I stood up to boo.”
On some level, this feels like part of a larger national conversation taking place, one about treating each other with basic civility even if we disagree. If you pay for your ticket and you want to boo or heckle a player you have that right — Donald Sterling would heckle his own Clipper players. But there is a line of common decency you should not cross. Harkaway crossed that line, and with that he forfeited his right to be at the game (despite some early local reports, he was ejected).
In this case, it’s time to accept the apology and move on.