NBA star Russell Westbrook has called for the league to introduce penalties for unruly fans after having popcorn thrown on him as he exited the arena in Philadelphia.
Westbrook and the Wizards fell into an 0-2 hole in their first-round series against the 76ers after a dominant performance from Ben Simmons lifted Philadelphia to a 120-95 Game 2 win.
However, the result was marred by an ugly incident which occurred as Westbrook exited the Wells Fargo Center after picking up an injury.
He limped off the floor and then was restrained by security after a fan threw popcorn at him as he was headed under the tunnel.
Following the game, Westbrook, who has been targeted by fans in Philadelphia specifically before, urged the NBA to do more to protect its players from unruly fans.
“This s–t is getting out of hand, especially for me,” he said.
“The amount of disrespect and the amount of fans that’s doing whatever the f–k they want to do is out of pocket.
“I’m all for the fans enjoying the game and having fun, it’s a part of sports, I get it, but there’s some things that cross the line.
“There’s a huge consequence for us as players. I’ve been in a lot of incidents where fans have said whatever and the consequences for me are a lot more detrimental than to those people in the stands because they feel like they’re untouchable.
“I wouldn’t come up to me on the street and throw popcorn on my head, because you know what happens. … In these arenas, you got to start protecting the players. We’ll see what the NBA does.
“This is my job, so to get food thrown on top of me, it’s just bulls–t. Fortunately I couldn’t get to the stands, but I just don’t take that lightly.
“There has to be some penalties put in place for fans, you can’t just come to the games and do or say as they please because they wouldn’t do that s–t anywhere else and I’m sick and tired of it honestly.”
The incident caused outrage around the league, with fans and fellow players denouncing the fan behaviour, including reigning NBA Finals MVP LeBron James.
Valerie Camillo, president of business operations for the Wells Fargo Center also rebuked the fan in a statement.
“This was classless, unacceptable behavior, and we’re not going to tolerate it at Wells Fargo Center,” Camillo said.
The ugly fan incident took away from another dominant playoff showing from Simmons, who finished with 22 points, nine rebounds and eight assists on 11-15 shooting.
Simmons was highly influential in Philadelphia’s Game 1 win, but attracted some criticism after scoring just six points, and he took a shot at his critics after his performance.
“I thought it was pretty hard to get 15 assists and 15 rebounds in the NBA in the playoffs,” he said.
“That’s pretty impressive. And we won. … I don’t know. For me, I’m here to win, and I’m doing what I need to do to help my team win. A lot of these (critics) never played basketball at a high level.”
Simmons and All-Star teammate Joel Embiid were Philadelphia’s joint leading scorers, and Embiid credited the pair’s partnership after the win.
“With the way they were guarding me, guys were open and he was the recipient of that,” Embiid said. “He was aggressive. I told him: ‘You have all the space in the world. Just attack and be aggressive.'”
With Philadelphia in the drivers’ seat, the series will now head to Washington, with Game 3 scheduled for 9 am on Sunday AEST.