The 76ers fan who threw popcorn on Russell Westbrook was ejected from the game, stripped of his season tickets, and banned from the Wells Fargo Center. The Knicks fan who attempted to spit on Trae Young has been indefinitely banned from Madison Square Garden.
Now add the Jazz to the list.
Three fans who heckled the family of Grizzlies star Ja Morant during Game 2 and crossed the line in doing so — you can see what they said by following this link — were ejected from the game and have been indefinitely banned from the arena, the team announced Thursday. Here is the official statement from the Jazz.
“The Utah Jazz have zero tolerance for offensive or disruptive behavior. 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,” the statement read. “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 supported the move.
as they should . my family should be able cheer for me & my teammates without getting inappropriate shit said to them 💯 https://t.co/CWiJIpkq03
— Ja Morant (@JaMorant) May 28, 2021
You can learn more by reading the replies on Twitter to two Jazz fans who sat next to Ja Morant’s father during the game (hat tip to Andy Larsen for pointing this thread out). Those two guys shared beers with the senior Morant and had good-natured fun, but said some people in the area cross the line with things said to Morant’s mother and family, and they were removed.
A few fans crossing the line has become a topic of conversation in recent days as fans have started to return in large numbers to NBA arenas. It has been more than the Westbrook, Young, or Morant incidents, there have been others as well. Westbrook spoke out after the Wizards/76ers game, asking the league to step up its player safety. The NBPA asked the same thing, releasing this statement on Thursday:
“True fans of this game honor and respect the dignity of our players. No true fan would seek to harm them or violate their personal space. Those who do have no place in our arenas. And their conduct is appropriately evaluated by law enforcement just as if it occurred on a public street.
Respect our Players. Respect our Game.”
The NBA itself released this statement.
“The return of more NBA fans to our arenas has brought great excitement and energy to the start of the playoffs, 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.”
That all sounds good, but it falls to arena staff in each location to enforce the rules. They will for the next few days, as the topic is in the air and everyone is hyper-vigilant. But what about next playoff round, or the conference finals?
When this was a topic a few years back, following an incident between Westbrook and some Jazz fans, I asked a league official about the NBA’s process. The source said a lot more people were thrown out for crossing the line than was made public, and that the league was cracking down. That may be true, but it feels like more needs to be done.
The return of fans has brought more than positive energy back to arenas, and that’s a concern.