Fans have not been scoring points lately when it comes to good behavior. Instead, we are seeing way too many incidents of out-of-control people in the stands lashing out at players and it mirrors some of the behavior we are seeing in other places as well. Just a few days ago, a fan dumped a bag of popcorn on Washington Wizards superstar Russell Westbrook as he was helped off the court after twisting his ankle during an NBA playoff game Wednesday in Philadelphia. Westbrook was understandably infuriated and had to be restrained from going into the stands.
Here’s another video angle that shows the so-called fan dumping the popcorn on Westbrook.
— Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) May 27, 2021
Other fans quickly pointed him out to security and he was tossed. But that wasn’t the end of the fallout for the fan. On Thursday, the 76ers organization announced he had been banned for life from all events at the arena.
The 76ers announce they’ve revoked the season ticket of the fan who poured popcorn on Russell Westbrook, effective immediately. He is banned from all future events. pic.twitter.com/uTjwS5O3xM
— Malika Andrews (@malika_andrews) May 27, 2021
The incident generated outrage from fellow players and observers around the league, who are concerned that the league is not doing enough to protect its players from unruly fans. Westbrook echoed those sentiments in a post-game interview.
Russell Westbrook had this to say after a fan in Philadelphia poured popcorn on his head while leaving the court with an ankle injury ⤵️ pic.twitter.com/MzO58QYjtR
— ESPN (@espn) May 27, 2021
Westbrook added, “To be completely honest, this s— is getting out of hand, especially for me. The amount of disrespect, the amount of fans just doing whatever the f— they want to do — it’s just out of pocket.” Westbrook has been the target of out-of-control fans in the past. In Utah, a fan was banned for life after he got into a courtside shouting match with the player. It’s not even the first time Westbrook has been harassed in Philadelphia. In 2016, a fan was ejected for giving the NBA star the finger.
Other players weighed in as well, including Lebron James, who also said the league has to do more to protect the players from abusive fans.
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
— LeBron James (@KingJames) May 27, 2021
The frustration from the players is completely understandable, especially when you consider the Westbrook incident wasn’t even the only encounter with a bad fan the NBA experienced THAT NIGHT. In New York City, a fan spit on Atlanta Hawks point guard Trae Young.
Damn… Crazy ! @50cent y’all good?!
— Trae Young (@TheTraeYoung) May 27, 2021
That fan has now been banned from the Garden indefinitely.
No major sports league has the proximity to the ticket-buying audience like the NBA. That intimacy could lead to mayhem, such as the infamous 2004 “Malice at the Palace” brawl in Detroit.
This isn’t just a sports problem, though. It’s a societal problem.
The general lack of basic decency and civility in our society is apparent in incidents that trend every day. It seems there can be no simple disagreements anymore. Things must escalate unnecessarily, such as when passengers refuse to follow airline rules about masks.
Fight breaks out on airplane over a passenger’s refusal to wear a face mask in accordance with airline’s policy https://t.co/ZneApSgiZ8
— Jon Cooper 🇺🇸 (@joncoopertweets) October 5, 2020
Then there are the anti-maskers who walk into private businesses and spew premeditated outrage because they refuse to follow the rules and wear a mask. And who will set proper examples for behavior? Washington lawmakers? Please. Look no further than Marjorie Taylor Greene and former president Donald Trump. Lawmakers should be role models, but those two couldn’t find the high moral ground with a map and a compass.
Somehow, we’ve reached a point where too many people feel that they are entitled to spew their anger and frustration at others in verbal and physical fashion, and think it’s OK. The Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection is more proof of that. Thousands of people got together to act unruly, throw things at police officers, destroy property, and even publicly defecate. Unfortunately, there isn’t a clear signal being sent to let people know that behavior wasn’t acceptable (other than for those arrested).
Wearing a MAGA cap and believing conspiracy theory nonsense that the election was stolen doesn’t give a person the right to invade the Capitol building, any more than buying a ticket to a game gives a fan a right to spit at or throw popcorn at a player.
It’s not OK. And it never should be.