Wednesday was one of the worst days for fan behavior in NBA history. First, we witnessed a Philadelphia 76ers fan throw popcorn at Washington Wizards star Russell Westbrook. Then, we learned that a New York Knicks fan spat on Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young. And now, a third incident of unacceptable fan behavior from that very day has come to light.
The Utah Jazz hosted the Memphis Grizzlies for Game 2 of their second-round series on Wednesday, and in that game, Grizzlies star Ja Morant had one of the best performances of his career. He scored 47 points to keep Memphis within striking distance of the top-seeded Jazz before ultimately falling. But on Thursday, Andy Larsen of the Salt Lake Tribune reported that there was an incident in the stands involving Morant's family and several Jazz fans. The Utah Jazz quickly released the following statement.
The Utah Jazz have zero tolerance for offensive or disruptive behavior. An incident occurred last night involving a verbal altercation during Game 2. Arena security staff intervened, and the investigation resulted in the removal and banning of three Jazz fans indefinitely. We apologize to all who were impacted by this unfortunate incident and condemn unacceptable fan behavior. The Utah Jazz are committed to ensuring a safe and respectful environment.
In an interview with ESPN's Dave McMenamin, Tee Morant, father of Ja, said the one fan made sexually explicit comments toward his wife, while another said "I'll put a nickel in your back and watch you dance, boy." A third fan yelled "Shut the f--- up, b----," at the elder Morant. He added that there was some good-natured back-and-forth with certain Jazz fans, but those three took things too far. "We were bantering back and forth with a group of fans around us all game," Morant said. "We had a good time." His son Ja echoed that sentiment on Twitter.
Morant told McMenamin that the fans he enjoyed bantering with confronted those who made the offensive comments. He plans to attend Game 5 in Utah.
Jazz owner Ryan Smith commented as did new part owner Dwyane Wade:
Ironically, another story on this very topic broke on Thursday when ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported that a $100 million lawsuit filed by two Jazz fans that had been banned from games following a 2019 incident involving Westbrook had been dismissed by a Utah judge.
Poor behavior from fans at NBA games is sadly rampant, and with rowdy fans only now returning in droves to games in person following a season with very limited attendance, things have grown worse than ever. There is no excuse for such actions, and teams fortunately acted swiftly in banning those responsible.