The NBA is toughening its fan code of conduct policy following a summer meeting with a dozen players who believe fan behavior is becoming one of the game’s largest problems, the Associated Press reported Monday.
NBA adopts zero tolerance policy
The NBA will adopt a zero tolerance policy for abusive or hateful behavior, per the AP, and are putting fans seated closest to the players and court on alert. Ejections and further punishment will result from anything deemed to violate that policy, per the AP.
And that list is far broader than before. From the Associated Press:
"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."
The NBA is expanding its closely monitored area deeper into the stands, per AP. In the past it focused on fans seated on the court or within a few rows of it. Now arena officials will be aware of fans several rows deep as well as those near the tunnels for when players enter and exit the court.
Fans will be removed from their seats while the incident is investigated and season ticket holders risk losing their seats even if it’s someone else using their tickets who harasses players or officials.
Ejections reportedly doubled in 2018-19
The league did not release numbers, but Pickett told the AP ejections of fans in courtside seats more than doubled last season. From the Associated Press:
"Last season, I began to sense even at the games I was attending that there was a certain, I'll call it absence of civility, that permeated the games," said Michele Roberts, the executive director of the National Basketball Players Association. "I was seeing more bad-mouthing opposing teams that were not simply 'you suck,' which every one of us will tolerate, but really nasty, nasty comments being directed at players."
The NBA has released “conduct advisory” notices to season ticket holders over the years, including a notice in October 2017 telling fans near the court they “bear a heightened responsibility to ensure” their conduct meets the guidelines. The very first example of inappropriate conduct given was “verbally instigating any player, coach, referee, fan or any other person involved in our game.”
At the end of that season, an NBA executive dismissed the idea it was becoming a problem to USA Today, crediting “heightened focus and monitoring in this area” including an enhanced code of conduct. Fan misbehavior is increasingly seen as “more normalized” given the political environment. But it’s reaching higher levels and players are feeling not only the taunts, but the cost of fines when they barb back.
Many incidents racially motivated
Roberts told the Associated Press she has received complaints about fan conduct and taunts from both black and white players and that not every incident is racially motivated. But many are fueled by race, something that has also become a consistent issue in soccer as well.
DeMarcus Cousins told Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes in March he has been subject to racist slurs from NBA fans on multiple occasions. A Boston Celtics fan was banned for his taunts to Cousins for that season and this upcoming one. In another headline case that month, a Utah Jazz fan was banned for life after directing slurs at Russell Westbrook. Westbrook also said he’s been subject to it at multiple arenas, but “especially here in Utah.”
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