While we all love sports because of the action on the field, court, or ice, it would be naive to only focus on the games themselves; sometimes other incidents take place that raises issues about the relationships between fans, athletes, and the nature of professional sports. One of those situations is currently taking place in the NBA, where Washington Wizards guard Isiah Thomas received a two-game suspension for going into the stands to confront a fan.
While everyone expected Thomas to receive swift punishment from the league, he still wasn’t happy with the suspension. The guard took promptly took to social media, and made his feelings known.
The initial Isiah Thomas indecent
On Saturday night, the Washington Wizards visited the Philadelphia 76ers. The Wizards lost, but an interaction between Isiah Thomas and some fans added insult to injury.
During the fourth quarter, Thomas stepped to the free-throw line. At that point, a fan started shouting at the guard, apparently trying to distract him. The Wizard made one of two foul shots; before play moved to the other end of the court, the fan in question ramped up the aggression.” When I missed the first free throw and made the second, I’m running back, the fan had both of his middle fingers up and said, ‘f–k you, b—h’ three times,” Thomas explained.
During a stoppage in play, the guard then went into the stands and to confront two fans. “So then the timeout goes, and I go in the stands and confront him. I said, ‘don’t be disrespectful.’ That calm. I’m a man before anything, and be a fan,” Thomas said. “His response was, ‘I’m sorry, I just wanted a frosty.’ Because if you miss two free throws the fans get a [Wendy’s] frosty.”
“So that’s what happened, and I walked back. I told the security who it was so they can get kicked out of the game,” he continued. “No way, shape or form that should be allowed at all. I’ve been in a league for a while, fans gonna say whatever they want. But don’t ever call me out of my name, cause I would never do that to anyone else. That crossed the line. I got kids, I got a family. That’s not OK at all. I just went to go tell him that. In no disrespectful way, as calm as I am right now, and those were the three things I said, and that was his response.”
Punishment for both parties
In addition to being escorted out of the building, the two Philadelphia fans received a year-long ban from the Wells Fargo Center. The season ticket holder who provided the pair with the tickets will also lose their seats.
Isiah Thomas shouldn’t have entered the stands, but he’s still right
Despite his calm demeanor, Isiah Thomas still shouldn’t have entered the stands. The Wizards’ guard, however, did make some prescient points during his postgame statement.
Over the past year, there have been several instances of fans abusing NBA players; the league even instituted a new conduct policy, aiming to cut down inappropriate behavior in the stands. There’s a labor dynamic and, especially in the NBA, a race dynamic at play. While most fans just want to catch a game and have a good time, some give in to their worst urges and feel that paying a nice chunk of change for a seat gives them the right to harass athletes who are performing for their amusement.
At that end of the day, though, that’s obviously wrong. As Thomas explained, professional athletes are simply people with a different job. The Wizards guard might have made a poor decision by entering the stands and confronting a fan, but his statement does ring true.