Warriors part-owner Mark Stevens banned from NBA games during investigation

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OAKLAND — Mark Stevens, the minority owner of the Golden State Warriors who was sitting courtside and shoved then cussed at Toronto’s Kyle Lowry as he chased a loose ball into the front row, has been banned by the NBA from attending games while the investigation into his actions continues.

“A team representative must be held to the highest possible standard and the conduct of Golden State Warriors investor Mark Stevens last night was beyond unacceptable and has no place in our league,” NBA spokesman Mike Bass said in a statement. “As the review of this matter continues, Mr. Stevens will not be permitted to attend NBA games.”

The Warriors had already said Stevens would not attend any more games during these Finals, then followed it up after the NBA’s move saying Stevens was banned from all team-related activities. Here was part of the Warriors’ statement:

“Mr. Stevens’ behavior last night did not reflect the high standards that we hope to exemplify as an organization. We’re extremely disappointed in his actions and, along with Mr. Stevens, offer our sincere apology to Kyle Lowry and the Toronto Raptors organization for this unfortunate misconduct. There is no place for such interaction between fans—or anyone—and players at an NBA game.”

“I will also personally apologize to Kyle and to the Raptors,” said Warriors coach Steve Kerr, who said he didn’t see the incident during the game, or really until the next morning. “That’s unacceptable.”

The incident occurred early in the fourth quarter of Game 3, with Toronto up 10 and the Warriors trying to make a run to get back in it. Serge Ibaka had blocked a Quinn Cook layup attempt and Lowry tried to chase down the loose ball, leaping into the front row to do so and crashing into fans. Stevens, who was a couple of seats down from where Lowry landed, reached over and shoved him, then Lowry said Stevens cursed at him.

Interactions between fans and players have been in the spotlight around the league this season, highlighted by Russell Westbrook‘s exchange with a couple of Utah Jazz fans who crossed the line, which led to that fan being banned from future Jazz games. It sparked a discussion of some of the abuse NBA players hear from fans — at games and online — that crosses the line from rooting for your team to derogatory and racist. Players have said things like this come up more than people realize and the league needs to do more to slow this trend.

Which is why players are watching this case so closely.

“We are closely monitoring both the Warriors’ and the League’s continued investigation into this matter and anxiously await their conclusions and response,” NBA players union executive director Michelle Roberts said in a statement. “The NBPA has previously expressed its support of a ‘zero-tolerance’ policy with respect to verbal and/or physical assaults perpetrated against Players. Stevens’ status as a member of the ownership group does not alter that view.”

This specific situation touches on the complex intersection of race and the power dynamic in professional sports, between team owners and players. (A lot of players want to move away from the term “owner” because of the racial implications, and some teams have done that.) A lot of players, such as LeBron James, have weighed in on the matter publicly and privately.

“There’s no place for that. He had no reason to touch me,” Lowry said after the game, before knowing who the perpetrator was. “He had no reason to reach over two seats and then say some vulgar language to me. There’s no place for people like that in our league. And hopefully, he never comes back to an NBA game.”

“I think you have to give Kyle a lot of credit in the way he handled it,” Draymond Green said. “You’re playing in the NBA Finals, so your emotions are running high. For him to handle it the way he did says a lot about his character, a lot about him as a man and the way he handles himself. That was great to see, the way he handled that.

“And as far as it all goes, the league has really grown in really having a no-nonsense approach when it comes to fan interactions and fan-to-player interactions. They have shown that over the course of the years now… It’s the NBA Finals, so there are a ton of eyes and attention on this. And I know every decision that I’ve seen Adam [Silver, NBA Commissioner] have to make, every tough decision, he’s made those decisions.”