Photo by Elise Amendola / AP Photo.
In the past few weeks, there have been multiple occasions where NBA fans have displayed atrocious behavior during playoffs.
On May 26, Russell Westbrook and the Washington Wizards were visiting the Philadelphia 76ers for an away game. During the game, Westbrook turned his ankle and headed to the locker room. On his way through the tunnel, a fan dumped a bucket of popcorn on his head, which led Westbrook to being restrained by security guards, as he angrily tried to confront the fan.
That same day, Trae Young and his Atlanta Hawks appeared to be storybook villains for the New York Knicks, ending their miraculous season. In game two, Young was inbounding the ball and a fan spit on him.
On May 31, Kyrie Irving and the Brooklyn Nets visited the Boston Celtics for games three and four of their playoff series. Before the games, Irving, a former Celtic, made some comments that didn’t sit well with Celtics fans.
“I am just looking forward to competing with my teammates and hopefully, we can just keep it strictly basketball; there’s no belligerence or racism going on — subtle racism.”
Racism in Boston sports became a topic of discussion for the next few days, with many dismissing Irving as being bitter over his split with the Celtics. However, after the Nets defeated the Celtics in game 4, a water bottle was thrown at Irving as he was leaving the stadium.
Later, he stated:
“It’s just underlying racism, and treating people like they’re in a human zoo. You see people just feel very entitled out here. As a Black man playing in the NBA, dealing with a lot of this stuff, it’s fairly difficult. You never know what’s going to happen.”
All fans related to each incident were banned from their respective stadiums.
These incidents are not new in the NBA. They have been going on for years, but the league doesn’t allow the perpetrators to get away with it. However, three incidents in the span of a week is eye-opening, especially when fans have recently been allowed back into stadiums.
Irving’s sentiment was entirely correct.
These fans see players as objects for entertainment. They want their team to win, and they wish for every other team to fail, regardless of how they fail; this includes cheering when players get injured, as the Toronto Raptors infamously did when Kevin Durant suffered a season ending injury in the 2019 NBA finals.
This is absolutely a racial issue.
Many incidents between players and fans follow the same trend.
In all three occasions, the perpetrator was Caucasian, while the victim was African-American. But not every NBA player is African-American and not every fan is Caucasian, so why do nearly all of these incidents include a Caucasian perpetrator and an African-American victim?
It isn’t a coincidence.
These fans don’t see players as people.
They believe that they are entitled to act how they please just because they paid to enter an arena. They don’t care about the feelings or wellbeing of the players. All they want is for their team to win.
This behavior is not just confined to the fans of a few teams. There have been such incidents amongst teams across the league.
Some fans truly believe that these athletes are just for their entertainment, and their actions prove it.