*Philly fans are notorious for their savagery – from booing Destiny’s Child’s halftime performance at an NBA Playoff game (for wearing the jerseys of both teams to remain neutral), to Eagles fans famously booing Santa Claus. But what happened to Washington Wizards star Russell Westbrook Wednesday night during Game 2 of the 76ers’ playoff game at Wells Fargo Arena was even low for Philly fans.
The sports world – from LeBron James to TNT’s “Inside the NBA” crew – is sickened.
Westbrook rolled his ankle earlier in the game when he stepped on 76ers guard Furkan Korkmaz’s foot. He re-injured the same ankle with 10 minutes to play and dropped to his knees in pain. Wizards staffers helped the star hobble toward the locker room. When they reached the tunnel, a fan in the stands waited until Westbrook limped to an opening in the overhang and dumped popcorn on top of him. Westbrook went off and had to be held back by the staffers and security guards. As he fought to get free and pointed toward the stands, crowd members immediately pointed out the culprit, a white man in a red baseball cap worn backwards. He was ejected by security moments later.
“To be completely honest, 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,” Westbrook said after the game. “There are certain things that cross the line. Any other setting … a guy were to come up on the street and pour popcorn on my head, you know what happens.
“In these arenas, you got to start protecting the players. We’ll see what the NBA does.”
Teammate Bradley Beal called the incident “disgusting,” and Wizards coach Scott Brooks said the individual should be banned from the league.
“Very disrespectful. Philadelphia is better than that,” Brooks said.
Valerie Camillo, president of business operations for the Wells Fargo Center, released a statement saying: “This was classless, unacceptable behavior, and we’re not going to tolerate it at Wells Fargo Center. We’re proud to have the most passionate fans in the country and the best home-court and home-ice advantage around, but this type of behavior has no place in our arena.”
Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James tweeted about the situation, writing, “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 [shoe] was on the other [foot].”
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
Shaquille O’Neal, Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith of TNT’s “Inside the NBA” also weighed in on the incident.
“Unnecessary is an understatement,” said host Ernie Johnson. Barkley suggested that NBA change the rules and allow players to “go up in the stands and beat the hell our of one person per game” when fans cross the line. “You don’t think that guy deserved to get his ass beat right at center court?”