Two fans have been banned from attending NBA events in Philadelphia and New York for separate incidents involving two of the league’s biggest stars: Russell Westbrook and Trae Young.
The Philadelphia 76ers revoked season tickets from a fan accused of throwing popcorn at Westbrook during the team’s playoff matchup against the Washington Wizards. The 76ers organization apologized to Westbrook and said the fan is banned from all team events, effective indefinitely.
“We apologize to Russell Westbrook and the Washington Wizards for being subjected to this type of unacceptable and disrespectful behavior. There is no place for it in our sport or arena,” the team said in a statement Thursday.
The incident happened Wednesday evening as Westbrook left the game with an apparent leg injury with just 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter. As he limped into his team’s tunnel, video showed popcorn raining down on him from the stands. Several staffers were forced to restrain Westbrook as he yelled back into the crowd.
After the 76ers won 120-95, Westbrook addressed the incident to reporters, calling for more protection for players. “I’m all for the fans enjoying the game, having fun, it’s a part of sports – I get it but there are certain things that cross the line.”
“Any other setting, I know a guy on the street wouldn’t come up and dump popcorn on my head because he knows what would happen,” Westbrook said. “In these arenas, you got to start protecting the players. We’ll see what the NBA does.”
Meanwhile, the New York Knicks announced Thursday a fan who spit on Atlanta Hawks star Trae Young has been banned from Madison Square Garden indefinitely. “We apologize to Trae and the entire Atlanta Hawks organization for this fan’s behavior. This was completely unacceptable and will not be tolerated in our venue,” the team said.
The Knicks said the organization has turned the information over to authorities.
Late Wednesday, Young tweeted the video of the moment where the fan apparently spit on him. “Damn… Crazy!” he said, asking rapper 50 Cent if he was good. The rapper was sitting in front of the fan who allegedly spit on Young.
The NBA issued a statement Thursday morning pledging to “vigorously” enforce its code of conduct for fans. “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,” the statement said. “An enhanced fan code of conduct will be vigorously enforced in order to ensure a safe and respectful environment for all involved.”
Wednesday’s incident drew immediate criticism from players across the league. Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James tweeted his support for Westbrook: “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!”