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Utah Jazz indefinitely ban three fans from Vivint Arena for verbal incident directed at family members of Memphis Grizzlies star

Ja Morant supportive of ban, tweets ‘my family should be able to cheer for me & my teammates’

Fans cheer after Utah Jazz forward Royce O’Neale hit a 3-point shot as the Utah Jazz and Memphis Grizzlies play at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City.
Fans cheer after Utah Jazz forward Royce O’Neale (23) hit a 3-point shot as the Utah Jazz and Memphis Grizzlies play Game 2 of their NBA playoffs first round series at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, May 26, 2021. Utah won 141-129. Three fans have been indefinitely banned from the arena for an incident that occurred Wednesday.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

The Utah Jazz announced Thursday evening that three fans have been banned indefinitely from Vivint Arena for an incident that occurred during Game 2 of the team’s playoff series against the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday night.

In a statement, the organization did not identify the fan or fans who were the target of the inappropriate behavior, however, numerous tweets posted Wednesday night indicated it was family members of star Grizzlies guard Ja Morant.

“The Utah Jazz have zero tolerance for offensive or disruptive behavior. An incident occurred last night involving a verbal altercation during Game 2. Arena security staff intervened, and the investigation resulted in the removal and banning of three Jazz fans indefinitely. We apologize to all who were impacted by this unfortunate incident and condemn unacceptable fan behavior. The Utah Jazz are committed to ensuring a safe and respectful environment.”

On Thursday night, Morant tweeted that he was in agreement with the ban and wrote, “my family should be able cheer for me & my teammates without getting inappropriate (expletive) said to them”

ESPN’s Tim MacMahon spoke with Morant’s father Tee, who told him that three separate incidents occurred between fans and his family that required arena security to intervene.

“I know heckling,” Tee Morant is quoted as saying. “We were doing that the whole game. But that’s different than heckling. That’s straight up disrespectful. That was too far out of line. You don’t say nothing like that heckling. That’s beyond heckling.”

Ja Morant tweeted later Thursday that “my family told me they felt the love from all the other jazz fans who were around them even bought each other drinks with a few. those 3 just went too far.”

Soon after that, Jazz All-Star Donovan Mitchell tweeted, “I’m glad those fans were banned and they should never be allowed back.... this is ridiculous!!! The fact that these words are being thrown around to players and there families is ridiculous! Enough is enough smh!”

Later Thursday, new Jazz majority owner Ryan Smith tweeted, “Memphis Grizzlies and Morant family... we are embarrassed and sorry. The @UtahJazz have zero tolerance for offensive behavior. We are committed to creating a respectful, competitive environment.”

About an hour later, new minority owner Dwyane Wade, the former NBA star, tweeted, “If we turn our backs on this kind of behavior we’re all apart of the problem. This will not be tolerated! Apologies once again to Ja and his family.”

Wednesday’s incident is one of a growing number of negative interactions between fans and NBA players as arena attendance has started to increase during the playoffs. Also on Wednesday, a Philadelphia 76ers fan threw popcorn on Washington Wizards guard Russell Westbrook as he was leaving the court for the locker room, and a New York Knicks fan allegedly spit at Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young during a stoppage in play.

After investigations conducted by the teams, the fans involved in the incidents in Philadelphia and New York have been suspended from those arenas indefinitely as well.

On Wednesday morning, the NBA released a statement that read: “The return of more NBA fans to our arenas has brought great excitement and energy to the start of the playoffs, but it is critical that we all show respect for players, officials and our fellow fans. An enhanced fan code of conduct will be vigorously enforced in order to ensure a safe and respectful environment for all involved.”

The code of conduct gives guidelines for guests to “enjoy the basketball experience free from disruptive behavior, including foul or abusive language and obscene gestures.” It includes rules for responsible alcohol consumption and smoking, sitting only in ticketed seats, and states that “guests who engage in fighting, throwing objects or attempting to enter the court will be immediately ejected from the arena.”

In 2019, two fans were banned from Vivint Arena for incidents involving Westbrook when he played for the Oklahoma City Thunder.