Following Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook’s verbal confrontation with an abusive fan on Monday, player-fan interaction has been at the forefront of basketball discussion.
The NBA has asked teams to create PSAs on “importance of respect and civility in NBA arenas,” while the Utah Jazz banned the fan who used dogwhistle language for life. But it’s the league’s $25,000 fine of Westbrook that has some players worried.
Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green says that fans cross the line when heckling players often, and he doesn’t think the fines will help curb that behavior at all.
“Our penalties get worse,” Green said after practice on Friday, via ESPN. “So if I’m like someone who’s probably not as happy with my life and I’ve got an opportunity, where I’m going to someone else’s place of employment and I know if I say something crazy to them and they say something back they lose money, misery loves company. So I think our penalties are raised and blasted to the world, people will keep doing that. Because at the end of the day, what do they really lose? But our families lose money out of our [pockets] that we provide. I think as long as that happens, [fans] will continue to do it. It is what is, I guess.”
Of course, fining players for bad interactions with fans has been protocol for years. Westbrook isn’t even the only notable player to receive a financial slap on the wrist; his former teammate Kevin Durant was also fined $25,000 for telling a Dallas Mavericks fan to “watch the f—— game and shut the f— up” in November.
“Like I said, I think as long as the league continues to fine players for saying something back when there are people completely disrespecting [them], it will always happen,” Green said.
Warriors forward Draymond Green says that fining players for confronting abusive fans encourages more bad fan behavior. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
It seems unlikely that the league will stop fining players who respond to fans, although it’s easy to understand being fed up with being constantly yelled at. Perhaps players wouldn’t be as frustrated if the league were less public with their punishments.
While the tradition of heckling is rich in sports, yelling racist and abusive things to players crosses a line. It’s also bizarre to think of roles being reversed with a player going to a random office and yelling at workers to write their TPS reports more carefully.
“It’s crazy. I guess it’s just the nature of what we do, I guess,” Green said. “I don’t really understand why grown men get off by coming into someone else’s job and saying bulls—. I guess that’s their way of letting out frustration in their life, but it’s kind of stupid to me.”
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