Jazz Ban 3 Fans Indefinitely for Heckling Ja Morant's Family During Game 2

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVMay 27, 2021

SALT LAKE CITY, UT - FEBRUARY 26: Close up of the Utah Jazz logo during a game at the Vivint Smart Home Arena on February 26, 2020 in Salt Lake City, UT. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Credit: 2020 NBAE (Photo by Chris Elise/NBAE via Getty Images)
Chris Elise/NBAE via Getty Images

The Utah Jazz have banned three fans for their actions in the stands during the team's 141-129 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday. 

Andy Larsen @andyblarsen

Jazz released a statement on three fans who were removed from the stadium after heckling the family of Ja Morant at the game. pic.twitter.com/J3KvHrbVCl

Morant took to Twitter to address the matter (Warning: Tweet contains profanity):

Ja Morant @JaMorant

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

💯 https://t.co/rqOqDR4P69

Morant's father, Tee, told ESPN.com's Tim MacMahon that Jazz fans made "vulgar" and "racist" comments. 

"I know heckling," Tee Morant said. "But that’s different than heckling. That’s straight up disrespectful."  

Tim MacMahon @espn_macmahon

Ja Morant's dad Tee told ESPN that one of the banned Jazz fans said to him: "I'll put a nickel in your back and watch you dance, boy."<br><br>Another made a sexually explicit remark to Ja's mom Jamie. The third told her: "Shut the f--- up, b----."<br><br>ESPN story: https://t.co/vfuuL2EYsq

The move comes amid multiple instances of unruly fan behavior at NBA playoff games as teams ease attendance restrictions they had in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

One Philadelphia 76ers fan dumped popcorn on Washington Wizards star Russell Westbrook as the point guard was walking to the locker room in the fourth quarter of a 120-95 defeat on Wednesday.

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Russ got heated after a fan threw popcorn at him pic.twitter.com/XyMRUxUVwc

The fan was identified and banned indefinitely from Wells Fargo Center.

In another incident, the New York Knicks banned the fan who spit on Atlanta Hawks star Trae Young in the fourth quarter of the Knicks' 101-92 Game 2 victory. Young declined to press any charges.

Vivint Arena has gained a reputation for being especially hostile for opposing players of color.

Westbrook threatened one fan at courtside during a game in March 2019, alleging the fan had told him to "get down on your knees like you're used to."

Former sharpshooter Kyle Korver was a member the Jazz at the time and explained in an essay for The Players' Tribune how the team held a meeting after the comment directed at Westbrook was made. Some Jazz players talked about moments when they felt "degraded in ways that went beyond acceptable heckling."

"One teammate talked about how his mom had called him right after the game, concerned for his safety in SLC," Korver wrote. "One teammate said the night felt like being 'in a zoo.'"

Etan Thomas, who spent nine seasons in the league, also recounted the times he played in Utah:

"I can recall countless road trips looking around the arena in Salt Lake City and being shocked by the faces of hate glaring back from the crowd. Every away building is a hostile environment with passionate fans rooting for the home team and sometimes crossing the line. But in Utah, it’s different. There are abundantly clear racial undertones to the heckling that seem to hover in the arena."

Speaking more broadly about what transpired in recent days, Westbrook told reporters "this s--t is getting out of hand."