When did it become okay for NBA fans to act like bigots and hooligans?
Has everyone spent the pandemic watching videos of Chelsea football fans throwing coins or Philadelphia Eagles fans throwing beer bottles? Is everyone so crazy after being locked up for 14 months that it suddenly seems normal to speak out and support your team by assaulting a professional basketball player or their family?
The incidents across the NBA over the past few days must really make you wonder how much freedom fans should have in a game in which there is
little physical separation between them and the players.
In Philadelphia, Russell Westbrook had popcorn thrown at him as he left the game with an injury. In Utah, Ja Morant’s parents had obscene and racist slurs directed at them. And at Madison Square Garden, Trae Young was spat out, which, at the end of a pandemic, should be considered an act of aggression.
Add to that, ahead of Friday night’s Nets-Boston playoff game Kyrie Irving expressed some concerns he would be greeted with racist taunts in his first playoff game as a Net at TD Garden. Irving was supported by teammate Bruce Brown on Friday morning. Brown, who grew up in Boston, loves coming back to play there, but he said he was the butt of racial slurs when he was younger.
The three authors in New York, Utah and Philadelphia were banned from the arenas. The Knicks, Jazz and 76ers also apologized, and the NBA issued a statement pledging to “vigorously” enforce its code of conduct for fans.
In an interview with ESPN ahead of Friday night’s Game 3 in Atlanta, Young said he didn’t mind Knicks fans using his name in an obscene chant, but he added, “Spits and things like that are unjustified. “
Young said, “It’s disgusting.”
Obviously, not all fans are bad apples, but the plethora of incidents during the first week of the playoffs is truly baffling. After dreaming of live sports for over a year, is that what happens when fans are finally allowed to return to the arenas?
Maybe this is because in our country it has become acceptable to go almost nuclear to destroy your opponent. Maybe that’s because our country is so polarized that it’s easy not to see that someone who thinks differently from you – someone who plays for a different team or votes for a different candidate – deserves. at least a basic level of respect as a human being.
“There’s no room for that,” Knicks star Julius Randle said before the game. “We have to protect the players. It’s disrespectful. Yeah, they’re our fans, but you see a guy on the street, you wouldn’t spit on him. You wouldn’t disrespect someone like that.”
There was an obvious lack of respect for Young in Games 1 and 2. Of course, you might not like his unfair chicanery and the way he pushes defenders to shoot fouls. Of course, it can be good to join in the secular chant involving Young.
But I’m starting to wonder if that song, especially when shouted by thousands of fans who are partying en masse for the first time in over a year, isn’t driving some to cross the line.
The intimacy of basketball is one of the things that makes attending NBA games so great. Players do not wear helmets. We can see their emotions up close. When Young holds his finger to his mouth in a mocking “Hush,” we may think he is talking to us.
The NBA, more than any other sport except football, is a game of stars and personalities. There are good guys and bad guys, heroes and bad guys.
All are people. Their parents don’t deserve to be harassed. They don’t deserve to have popcorn on their heads. No human should ever spit on another.
“We just live in a society where people don’t respect any more,” said Hawks coach Nate McMillan.