About a dozen NBA players gathered for a teleconference with officials in the league office this summer, making their case about what they believe is one of the biggest problems in the game.
Fan behavior, they said, is getting worse.
The numbers show that they’re right, and if that isn’t troubling enough, race adds to the complexity of the issue: Most NBA players are black, and it seems like most of those in the closest seats are white. Not every incident is racially motivated, but some clearly are.
After high-profile incidents involving Russell Westbrook, DeMarcus Cousins, Kyle Lowry and others last season — including ones involving racist taunts — 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.”
There were more. Those were just the highest-profile incidents. The NBA would not release exact numbers — and the totals are believed to be very low — but Pickett said the ejections of fans in the courtside area more than doubled last season.