Two fans have been barred indefinitely from N.B.A. arenas for separate incidents on Wednesday in which they acted inappropriately toward players on the court.
The Knicks barred a fan who spit on Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young during Game 2 at Madison Square Garden. “This was completely unacceptable and will not be tolerated in our venue,” the team said in a statement on Thursday.
The Philadelphia 76ers announced that a fan who poured popcorn on Washington Wizards guard Russell Westbrook as he departed the court after an injury at Wells Fargo Center would have his season tickets revoked.
The incident occurred after Westbrook injured his ankle in the fourth quarter of the Wizards’ Game 2 loss to the 76ers on Wednesday. The fan was ejected by arena security.
N.B.A. arenas have only recently started allowing fans to return at or near full capacity.
“There are certain things that cross the line,” Westbrook told reporters after the game. “In these arenas, you got to start protecting the players. We’ll see what the N.B.A. does.”
On Thursday, the N.B.A. said in a statement: “The return of more N.B.A. 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.”
Players across the league voiced frustration over the popcorn incident. “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!!” Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James tweeted. “There’s cameras all over arenas so there’s no excuse!”
Westbrook said that he had learned to look the other way during most cases of fan vitriol, but that the situation was worsening. Three years ago, the Jazz barred a fan in Utah for, the team said, “excessive and derogatory verbal abuse directed at a player.” Westbrook, who is Black, said that fan, who appeared to be white, made “disrespectful” and “racial” comments.
In the case of Young, Knicks fans raucously cursed at him and mocked his hair during Games 1 and 2 of Atlanta’s first-round playoff series at Madison Square Garden this week. Young made a shushing gesture toward the crowd after the Hawks beat the Knicks in Game 1 on Sunday.