NBA Players Aren’t ‘Toys’ or ‘Zoo Animals’ for Unruly Fans

Fan Court Sixers Wizards
(Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

On Thursday, May 27, the morning after a New York Knicks’ fan spit on Atlanta Hawks’ guard Trae Young, the NBA issued a statement on fan conduct.

“The return of more NBA fans to our arenas has brought great excitement and energy to the start of the playoffs, but it is critical that we all show respect for players, officials and our fellow fans.  An enhanced fan code of conduct will be vigorously enforced in order to ensure a safe and respectful environment for all involved.”

Either the “enhanced fan code of conduct” sucked or wasn’t “vigorously enforced” during Game 4 of the Philadelphia 76ers-Washington Wizards series on Monday, May 31. 

In the third quarter of the Wizards’ eventual eight-point win, a fan managed to enter the court – and remain on the court for several seconds. While the fan didn’t touch or even approach a player or coach, it was the latest in a series of fan incidents that included the Young sideline spit, a Sixers’ fan dumping popcorn on Russell Westbrook, and a Boston Celtics’ fan throwing a water bottle at Kyrie Irving.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver said there will be “zero tolerance” for fans who, in the words of Wizards’ head coach Scott Brooks, partake in “barbaric” behavior. While the Celtics’ fan was charged with assault, and the Sixers’ and Knicks’ fans are banned from the respective arenas indefinitely, the incidents have persisted, most recently with the on-court fan in Washington, D.C., on Monday night.

“These fans got to understand that we are not toys or zoo animals,” Sam Dekker said on the Unleashed podcast. “We are trying to do our job and you’re there to watch. Cheer, boo, yell, scream, whatever. Just don’t get physical, just don’t cross that line. You’re in seats for a reason.”

Dekker, a former first-round pick of the Houston Rockets who played in 200 career NBA games over four seasons and now plays overseas, joined his wife, Olivia Harlan Dekker, on this week’s episode of Unleashed to talk about unruly fans, the NBA playoffs, and more.

Listen to the full episode below (or on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and everywhere else podcasts are available):

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