NBPA Issues Statement on Fan Behavior After Russell Westbrook, Trae Young Incidents

Paul KasabianFeatured Columnist IIMay 27, 2021

Washington Wizards' Russell Westbrook plays during Game 2 in a first-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Philadelphia 76ers, Wednesday, May 26, 2021, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
AP Photo/Matt Slocum

The National Basketball Players Association has issued a statement after fans physically harassed Washington Wizards point guard Russell Westbrook and Atlanta Hawks point guard Trae Young during playoff games on Wednesday:

“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.”

A fan threw popcorn at an injured Westbrook as he was being helped back into the locker room at the Wells Fargo Center during the Philadelphia 76ers' 120-95 home win over the Wizards.

Another fan spit at Young during the Hawks' 101-92 road loss to the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden.

Both fans were banned from those respective arenas indefinitely.

The NBA also released a statement following the two incidents while promising an "enhanced" Fan Code of Conduct:



Fans are being welcomed back into arenas amid increased vaccinations and decreased case numbers during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Knicks notably welcomed 15,000 fans for each of their two playoff home games against Atlanta.

As Jonathan Abrams of the New York Times noted, however, that has brought about an old problem: "But the easing of restrictions, which has allowed fans to return in droves, has brought to the forefront another dimension that the pandemic had covered: the sometimes ugly behavior of unruly fans in proximity to players."

Numerous players spoke out on the fan behavior, including Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James and Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant:

LeBron James @KingJames

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! Cause if the 👟 was on the other 🦶🏾.🎥 #ProtectOurPlayers

Kevin Durant @KDTrey5

It’s all fun and games until ya ass banned for life.

Westbrook, who has been the subject of previous bad behavior from fans, was rightfully upset after the game, saying the following to reporters:

"To be completely honest, this s--t is getting out of hand, especially for me. The amount of disrespect, the amount of fans just doing whatever the f--k they want to do, it's just out of pocket. Any other setting—you know, I'm all for fans enjoying the game and having fun, it's part of sports, I get it.
"But there are certain things that cross the line, and in any other setting, I know for a fact that fans wouldn't come up, guy wouldn't come on the street pouring popcorn on my head, because he would know what'd happen. Guy wouldn't come up to me talking mess about my kids, my family on the street because the response would be different. In these arenas, they got to start protecting the players, man."

Three NBA playoff games are on tap for Thursday, beginning with the Milwaukee Bucks at the Miami Heat at 7:30 p.m. ET. The Los Angeles Lakers will also host the Phoenix Suns, and the Portland Trail Blazers will welcome the Denver Nuggets into town.