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NBA Fans Face Legal Action for Latest Playoff Incidents

Brock Fritz

The NBA’s punishments last week failed to deter fans from making scenes during playoff games over Memorial Day weekend.

Days after the Utah Jazz, Philadelphia 76ers and New York Knicks banned fans from their arenas, a fan threw a water bottle at Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving after Sunday’s game in Boston, and another was tackled after running onto the court Monday in Washington, D.C.

The punishments are getting increasingly severe as the NBA and teams attempt to halt the disturbing trend. Cole Buckley, the 21-year-old Massachusetts man who threw the water bottle at Irving, a former Boston Celtic, is reportedly being arraigned in Boston Municipal Court on Tuesday on a charge of assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon.

"A guest was arrested by Boston Police at the end of tonight’s Boston Celtics game for throwing an object. We will support and provide assistance to Boston Police as this incident is under review. We have zero tolerance for violations of our guest code of conduct, and the guest is subject to a lifetime ban from TD Garden," Tricia McCorkle, a TD Garden spokesperson, said in a statement on Sunday.

“(It’s) just underlying racism, and treating people like they’re in a human zoo,” Irving said after putting up 39 points and 11 rebounds as the Nets took a 3-1 series lead with a 141-126 road win over the Celtics. “Throwing stuff at people, saying things. There’s a certain point where it gets to be too much. You see people just feel very entitled out here. … As a Black man playing in the NBA, dealing with a lot of this stuff, it’s fairly difficult. You never know what’s going to happen.”

The Irving incident was similar to the first three incidents during the playoffs, which are still in the first round. Last week, popcorn was thrown at Washington’s Russell Westbrook, someone spit at Atlanta’s Trae Young, and three Utah fans were banned for going “too far” with Memphis guard Ja Morant and his family.

Related: Three Incidents Lead to Arena Bans of NBA Playoff Fans

“Fans have got to grow up at some point,” Nets forward Kevin Durant said. “I know that being in the house for a year and a half with the pandemic has got a lot of people on edge, has got a lot of people stressed out. But when you come to these games you’ve got to realize: These men are human. We’re not animals. We’re not in the circus.

“You coming to the game is not all about you as a fan. So have some respect for the game. Have some respect for the human beings. And have some respect for yourself. Your mother wouldn’t be proud of you throwing water bottles at basketball players, or spitting on players or tossing popcorn. So grow the (expletive) up and enjoy the game.”

The fan who ran onto the court at Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C., didn’t appear to have any player action. The man ran onto the court and jumped to touch the backboard before being tackled by a security guard and handcuffed by police.

"This is not a game or some s--- you can just do whatever you want to do and run around," Wizards guard Russell Westbrook said after Washington's 122-114 win. "This is our job, and we take our job very seriously."

Monumental Sports & Entertainment, the parent company of the Wizards and the arena, released a statement saying the company “has a zero tolerance policy when fans violate our code of conduct at Capital One Arena. During this evening’s game, a fan was apprehended by Capital One Arena Special Police after attempting to breach the court. He will be banned from the arena and charges are being pursued with DC MPD.”

"They have no fear," Wizards coach Scott Brooks said. "I don't know the law. But I just know you shouldn't be able to do that and get away with it and just be kicked out because we all know you can dress different and look different and get into an arena."

“I don’t know what’s going on with these fans right now,” Philadelphia coach Doc Rivers said, according to The Associated Press. “We’ve just got to have safety.”

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