The National Basketball Association is changing and toughening its code of conduct for fans, putting those in closest proximity to the players and the court on alert that anything over the line will lead to ejections and possibly more, according to a report by ESPN.
"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."
NBA players Russell Westbrook and DeMarcus Cousins were subjected to racist taunts in Salt Lake City and Boston last season, and the fans involved in those incidents were banned by the Jazz (for life) and Celtics (for two years). Kyle Lowry was shoved by Mark Stevens, a minority partner of the Golden State Warriors' ownership group who was seated courtside during the NBA Finals, and Stevens was banned from team business for a year by the league. These were the highest-profile incidents during a season that saw the number of ejections of fans in courtside seats more than double.
"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."
As reported by ESPN, the NBA league is expanding the area in arenas most closely monitored when it comes to player-fan interaction. The top-priority area used to be just those seated with feet on the court or maybe the first couple rows of courtside seats. Now, that area goes several rows deep in every building, plus the areas where teams and referees enter and exit the court.
The fan code of conduct, a standard announcement at every NBA arena for years, is now being shown and promoted more in each game. Season-ticket holders have been put on notice by teams that they could lose their seats, even if they give their tickets to someone else who goes over the line and harasses players or officials.
Fans believed to have been involved in incidents will be removed from seats while officials investigate. Many times in the past, when a security guard asked those in a certain area what happened, no one would volunteer information with the suspected heckler present.