The NBA has seen a handful of prominent cases where fans have crossed the line from intense to abusive over the last few years. Now they’re taking steps to put a stop to the behavior.
The league, spurred by incidents involving Russell Westbrook, Kyle Lowry, DeMarcus Cousins, and others, are enacting a zero-tolerance policy toward inappropriate fan behavior, according to ESPN:
Zero tolerance for abusive or hateful behavior is to become the NBA’s policy going forward. The league 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.
”We’ve added any sexist language or LGBTQ language, any denigrating language in that way, anything that is non-basketball-related,” said Jerome Pickett, the NBA’s executive vice president and chief security officer. “So ‘your mother’ comments, talking about your family, talking about test scores, anything non-basketball-related, we’ve added that in as well as being something that we will go and pull a fan out of the seat and investigate what happened.”
Westbrook and Cousins were subjected to racist taunts in Salt Lake City and Boston, and the fans involved in those incidents were banned by the Jazz and Celtics. Lowry was shoved by Mark Stevens, a minority partner of the Golden State Warriors’ ownership group who was seated courtside during the NBA Finals, and Stevens was banned from team business for a year by the league.
The NBA is also expanding the area in arenas most closely monitored when it comes to player-fan interaction. The top-priority area used to be just those seated with feet on the court or maybe the first couple rows of courtside seats. Now, that area goes several rows deep in every building, plus the areas where teams and referees enter and exit the court.