An ugly incident occurred during Wednesday night’s Game 2 showdown between the Washington Wizards and Philadelphia 76ers at Wells Fargo Center when a fan dumped popcorn on Russell Westbrook. Among those expressing outrage over the individual’s unacceptable conduct was Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James.
The incident occurred with the Wizards trailing trailing 98-81 with just over a minute into the fourth quarter. Westbrook was headed back to locker room after suffering an ankle injury. As he made his way down the tunnel in the Wizards’ 120-95 blowout loss, a fan dumped popcorn on Westbrook, who had to be restrained as he was rightfully outraged over the deplorable behavior.
Westbrook understandably was left incensed over what transpired, and the Wizards superstar made it clear after the game that such transgressions cannot be tolerated.
“To be completely honest man, this (expletive) is getting out of hand, especially for me,” Westbrook said afterwards, per USA Today. “The amount of disrespect, the amount of fans just doing whatever the (expletive) they want to do, it’s just out of pocket.
“I’m all for the fans enjoying the game and having fun. It’s part of sports, I get it, but there are certain things that cross the line and in any other setting, I know for a fact that a guy wouldn’t come up to me on the street and pour popcorn on my head, because you know what would happen. … In these arenas, you gotta start protecting the players. We’ll see what the NBA does.”
There was unsurprisingly widespread condemnation of the actions of the fan across the NBA world. Westbrook’s teammate Bradley Beal called it “disgusting.” James expressed his disgust on social media over what occurred in a tweet that included the hashtag #ProtectOurPlayers.
The fan was ultimately ejected from the arena, according to ESPN, and Valerie Camillo, president of business operations for the Wells Fargo Center, subsequently issued a statement indicating such fan conduct will not be tolerated.
“This was classless, unacceptable behavior, and we’re not going to tolerate it at Wells Fargo Center,” the statement read. “We’re proud to have the most passionate fans in the country and the best home-court and home-ice advantage around, but this type of behavior has no place in our arena.”
Westbrook unfortunately has a history with this kind of fan behavior. In 2018, Westbrook was left compelled to bemoan how fans feel emboldened enough to believe this kind of conduct is acceptable after a youngster appeared to make contact with him in a game against the Denver Nuggets.
Further, the NBA star was troublesomely confronted on the court by a fan during a 2019 game, again against the Nuggets. In the same year, Westbrook was involved in a confrontation with a Utah Jazz fan during a game at Vivint Smart Home Arena.
There obviously is no place for such deplorable, shameful and reprehensible behavior. Given the close proximity between fans and the court at NBA arenas that is unparalleled in sports, it’s obviously a complicated situation for the league. That being said, it also important to note that such incidents are outliers, as most people attending NBA games don’t conduct themselves in such a manner.
Still, it’s nevertheless extremely disappointing that it occurred. Thankfully, the fan had to face consequences for their actions and that the situation didn’t devolve into something uglier.
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