Washington Wizards guard Isaiah Thomas had a throwback performance against the 76ers on Saturday night, dropping 20 points in 25 minutes of action. Unfortunately, Thomas' on-court performance wasn't the main takeaway from his evening in Philadelphia.
Thomas has been suspended for two games without pay by the NBA for going into the crowd to confront a pair of 76ers fans that were heckling him. The two fans involved in the altercation have also been banned from the Wells Fargo Center for a year, while the season-ticket holder for the seats has had his tickets revoked with a refund.
The incident occurred late in the fourth of the contest between the Sixers and Wizards, when Thomas heard the fans directing curses at him. He then entered the stands to tell the fans not to be disrespectful. You can see footage of the incident below:
Isaiah Thomas was ejected for entering the stands and talking to a pair of Sixers fans #RepTheDistrict pic.twitter.com/aRqmvNWUQ2— NBC Sports Wizards (@NBCSWizards) December 22, 2019
After the game, Thomas explained the situation from his point of view, while wearing an Allen Iverson jersey to honor the Sixers legend, As absurd as it sounds, it turns out the fans were upset about the result of an in-game promotion involving an ice cream treat.
Isaiah Thomas, putting on an Iverson jersey, address reporters about entering the stands.— Candace Buckner (@CandaceDBuckner) December 22, 2019
Thomas said a fan raised both middle fingers and screamed at him: “ F—-you, B—-!”
Here’s Thomas detailing the incident, without censure. pic.twitter.com/bPwSF5cVxE
Here is Thomas' explanation:
"I'm never gonna be disrespected in any way. My dad taught me at a young age don't ever let anybody call you out of your name. It doesn't matter who I am, that's not gonna hapen. When I missed the first free throw, and made the second, I'm running back, the fan had both of his middle fingers up and said, 'f--k you, b---h' three times. So then the timeout goes, and I go in the stands and confront him. I said, 'don't be disrespectful.' That calm. I'm a man before anything, and be a fan. His response was, 'I'm sorry, I just wanted a frosty.' Because if you miss two free throws the fans get a frosty.
So that's what happened, and I walked back. I told the security who it was so they can get kicked out of the game. No way, shape or form that should be allowed at all. I've been in a league for a while, fans gonna say whatever they want. But don't ever call me out of my name, cause I would never do that to anyone else. That crossed the line. I got kids, I got a family. That's not OK at all. I just went to go tell him that. In no disrespectful way, as calm as I am right now, and those were the three things I said, and that was his response.
A report from the Washington Post notes that other fans in the area said the two offenders were "drunk," which is not surprising. It's obviously not an excuse, but it would easily explain why they felt comfortable crossing the line. The game was already decided, and Thomas wasn't going back in, so the ejection didn't affect the Wizards on the floor. But, of course, that's really not the main story here.
Last season there was the infamous incident in Utah when a Jazz fan was banned for life for making racist comments toward Russell Westbrook. And already this season there have been multiple other episodes with Sixers fans. When the Jazz were in Philly, a fan was ejected for getting into it with Donovan Mitchell, and when the Toronto Raptors were in town, Kyle Lowry exchanged words with a fan.
Ultimately, the fans were in the wrong in this situation, and they deserved to be removed from the arena and their resulting year-long ban. However, Thomas also shouldn't have gone into the stands, and instead should have let security handle the situation. Even though Thomas remained calm throughout the interaction with the fans, the league sent a clear message with the suspension that players entering the stands is not acceptable.