NBA Strengthening Fan Conduct Policy After Recent Incidents
Things get heated between Russell Westbrook and Utah Jazz fans again. “I’ll f*ck you up. You and your wife,” he says. Not sure what these fans said to him, but he also had issues with Jazz fans during the postseason. pic.twitter.com/LquwRmLVNy— Eric Woodyard (@E_Woodyard) March 12, 2019
The NBA is "changing and toughening its code of conduct for fans, especially putting those in closest proximity to the players and the court on alert that anything over the line will lead to ejections and possibly more," according to Tim Reynolds of the AP. After several high-profile incidents involving poor fan behavior last NBA season, including "racist taunts" in some cases, "zero tolerance for abusive or hateful behavior" will now become league policy. NBA Exec VP & Chief Security Officer Jerome Pickett said, "We've added any sexist language or LGBTQ language, any denigrating language in that way. ... We will go and pull a fan out of the seat and investigate." Pickett added that ejections in the courtside area "more than doubled last season," though exact numbers were not revealed. The NBPA "insists that the problem is getting bigger." NBPA Exec Dir Michele Roberts: "Last season, I began to sense even at the games I was attending that there was a certain, I'll call it absence of civility." The Celtics last season "banned a fan for two years for directing racist chants" at then-Warriors C DeMarcus Cousins. Then-Thunder G Russell Westbrook was "involved in a pair of incidents in Utah that came to light last season." The fan code of conduct is "now being shown and promoted more times in each game." Season-ticket holders have been "put on notice by teams that they may lose their seats even if they give their tickets to someone who goes over the line and harasses players or officials" (AP, 10/21).
IS A POLICY REALLY NEEDED? ESPN's Michael Wilbon said "people have to go" when fans get unruly, adding, "I don't know that you need a policy." ESPN's Jorge Sedano said it is "just common sense." Wilbon: "You know it's offensive when you hear it. ... I don't know that a policy will serve that. People are immediately going to try to find a way to go around the policy." ESPN's Zach Lowe noted that the policy covers all non-basketball related language, saying, "I can think of non-basketball related language that has nothing to do with taunting players, and that's some of the protestors that have been at games." Lowe said the pro-Hong Kong movement "doesn't seem like it's going away." He added, "I don't know if this rule is even supposed to touch that kind of stuff or this is just about taunting." Wilbon: "It's trying to cover every possible offensive thing that is said in an arena" ("The Jump," ESPN, 10/21).