Fans yelled anti-gay slurs at Damian Lillard after game in Minnesota Monday

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NBA players are caught on camera and fined by the league when they curse at, or make indecent gestures toward, fans in the crowd. As they should be. However, the other side of the equation is that some of the things yelled at NBA players cross all lines of decency, and while sometimes those fans are ejected or moved away from courtside, it’s something the league needs to know players will react to.

Take, for example, what happened to Damian Lillard Monday. His team had just lost a close, hard-fought game to the Timberwolves on the road, when walking to the bus a couple of idiots crossed the line. Chris Haynes of ESPN broke the story.

Two fans shouted anti-gay slurs at Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard while he was walking to the team bus on Monday night, sources told ESPN.

Lillard confirmed to ESPN that the phrases were shouted at him after the Blazers’ 108-107 loss to the Timberwolves in Minnesota….

Cellphone video captured an irritated Lillard approaching the hecklers, asking, “Which one of you all said that?” A woman in the area pointed out one of the individuals, and that person apologized. Sources at the scene say no action was taken against the fans.

Good on Lillard for walking over there and challenging them. As with just about everyone spewing hate, when confronted they back down.

Just to be clear, anti-gay slurs are never appropriate. Ever. Anywhere. It is flat-out unacceptable. If you’re using them, you are the problem.

In our tribalized and divided nation (and world), some people have felt emboldened to demean others. To degrade others. To see the “other side” as idiots or worse. It’s depressing how quickly and willingly people slide into that skin and spew venom, in person or online. It shouldn’t happen anywhere.

Sports is entertainment and, while I think sports and politics will always mix, there is no place for hate in the arena. Root against Lillard, or whoever, as hard as you want when they are on the court, but off the court they are just people with the same concerns about family, friends, Game of Thrones, and life we all do. Treat them with some respect, NBA players are the best in their craft in the world. They have earned it.