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Fans gone wild: When unruly sports fans cross the line at live events

·3 min read
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Russell Westbrook was headed to the locker room with an injured right ankle during the Washington Wizards' NBA playoff game Wednesday night against the Philadelphia Sixers when a fan dumped popcorn on him.

The Wizards' triple-double machine understandably became irate and had to be held back by team personnel and security at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. The team on Thursday announced it would ban the fan indefinitely from all events at the arena.

And he wasn't the only NBA fan to find himself banned on Thursday.

The New York Knicks determined a fan had spit on Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young during Game 2 of that series and the team announced it would ban the fan indefinitely from Madison Square Garden.

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It's not the first time fans have crossed the line while watching sporting events — it's not even the first time Westbrook himself has been subjected to despicable fan behavior.

The incident conjured the memories of several other fan-athlete interactions gone awry. Among them are:

Wizards guard Russell Westbrook argues a call with referee in Philadelphia.
Wizards guard Russell Westbrook argues a call with referee in Philadelphia.

'Malice at the Palace'

Nov. 19, 2004 — one of the most infamous nights in sports history and a classic "Can you imagine if social media was around for this?" moment.

A skirmish between the Indiana Pacers and Detroit Pistons poured into the stands after a fan threw a beer at Metta Sandiford-Artest, then known as Ron Artest.

Artest served an 86-game suspension for his role that night.

Sheffield's near-knockout at Fenway

A fan, sitting in the front row of Fenway Park in Boston, took a swing at Yankees right fielder Gary Sheffield during an April 2005 game, as the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry reached a peak.

Sheffield had been fielding a ball near the wall when the fan's uppercut appeared to graze him. Sheffield threw the ball back to the infield and nearly swung back at the fan but restrained himself.

This happened two seasons after two Yankees relievers — Jeff Nelson and Karim Garcia — took a plea deal after being charged with assault for brawling with a Red Sox groundskeeper.

Westbrook in Utah

On March 11, 2019, Westbrook confronted a fan he believed had been directing vulgar comments at him. The Jazz banned the fan from Vivint Smart Home Arena, and the fan later sued the team.

Tom Gamboa attacked

Kansas City Royals first base coach Tom Gamboa was attacked by a man and his son during a game in September 2002 at US Cellular Field in Chicago. The Royals rushed out of the dugout to help and separated the two men from Gamboa. The fans were identified as a 34-year-old man and his 15 year-old son. Gamboa suffered several cuts in the attack and damage to his right ear. Both fans were sentenced to probation for their roles.

Carl Everett

In April 2003, an Oakland Athletics fan was charged with assault for throwing a cell phone from the second deck that hit Carl Everett, then a Texas Rangers outfielder at the time, in the head.

The next season, during a September 2004 game between the Texas and A's, Rangers reliever Frank Francisco threw a chair into the right-field box seats and was charged with battery.

Wrigley brawl

On May 16, 2000, the Los Angeles Dodgers were visited Wrigley Field to take on the Cubs. While backup catcher Chad Kreuter was sitting in the bullpen, a fan reached and hit him head and stole his cap.

The predictable happened as members of the Dodgers went into the stands to confront anyone and everyone who looked suspect. The game was delayed for 10 minutes and 19 players and coaches were suspended by MLB for their actions in the brawl.

Contributing: Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Bad behavior by fans at sporting events in recent years