NBA players are calling for actions to protect players from fans after a Philadelphia 76ers fan threw popcorn on Washington Wizards player Russell Westbrook as the star player was leaving the game with an ankle injury.
Video captured popcorn being dropped on Westbrook after he exited the floor through a hallway. Wizards staff then had to restrain a visibly furious Westbrook, who appeared to want to confront the fan — who was a good 20 feet up in the stands.
Russell Westbrook appeared to have popcorn poured on his head by a fan on his way to the locker room with an apparent injury.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) May 27, 2021
The fan was ejected from the game. pic.twitter.com/WgtvKMFYHH
Westbrook addressed the incident during the postgame press conference, saying fans' mocking interactions with players were getting out of hand and that it was disrespectful for fans to feel that they could do whatever they want at a game.
"This s--- is getting out of hand, especially for me. The amount of disrespect, the amount of fans just doing whatever the f--- they want to do. It’s just out of pocket, man."— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) May 27, 2021
—Russ after a fan poured popcorn on him in Philly pic.twitter.com/NLvjg8fg3S
"In any other setting, I’m all for fans enjoying the game. It’s part of sports, I get it. But there are some things that cross the line," said Westbrook, who has previously been targeted by fans who have used obscene gestures or racial slurs against him. "In any other setting, I know for a fact that fans ... they wouldn’t come up — a guy wouldn’t come up on the street and pour popcorn on my head. Because we’d know what happen.”
Other players expressed support for Westbrook, including fellow Wizards starter Bradley Beal and the game's biggest star, Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James.
He said the league should take action in a tweet.
By the way WE AS THE PLAYERS wanna see who threw that popcorn on Russ while he was leaving the game tonight with a injury!! There’s cameras all over arenas so there’s no excuse! Cause if the was on the other . #ProtectOurPlayers— LeBron James (@KingJames) May 27, 2021
Westbrook, the NBA’s all time triple-double leader, has been involved in fan-related incidents in the past few years.
In 2019, the league fined Westbrook $25,000 for shouting profanity and threatening a fan during a Utah Jazz game, according to a Washington Post report.
Westbrook claimed the fan, who was later banned from attending Jazz games, was heckling him with racist and profane comments.
The Wells Fargo Center, where the 76ers play, issued a statement on the incident as well, calling the behavior from the fan “classless and unacceptable.”
Statement from Wells Fargo Center on fan dumping popcorn on Russell Westbrook— John Clark (@JClarkNBCS) May 27, 2021
“This was classless, unacceptable behavior, and we’re not going to tolerate it” pic.twitter.com/GqYHYmRTNj
The Hill has reached out to the NBA for comment.