The Sixers took a 2-0 series lead over the Wizards Wednesday night in their first-round playoff series with a 120-95 win.
A fan dumping popcorn on an injured Russell Westbrook’s head as he was exiting the court attracted more national attention than anything that took place during the game.
Valerie Camillo, president of business operations for the Wells Fargo Center, released a statement after the game.
Westbrook spoke at length about the incident.
“Unfortunately, I was leaving and then I just saw popcorn on top of my head,” he told reporters. “To be blatantly honest, this s---is getting out of hand, especially for me — just the amount of disrespect, the amount of fans just doing whatever the f--- they want to do. It’s out of pocket. It’s out of pocket, seriously. Any other setting, I’m all for the fans enjoying the game and having fun. It’s part of sports. I get it. But there are certain things that cross the line. In any other setting, I know for a fact that fans … a guy wouldn’t come up on the street and pour popcorn on my head, because he knows what would happen. A guy wouldn’t come up to me, talking about my kids, my family on the street, because the response would be different.
“In these arenas you’ve got to start protecting the players. We’ll see what the NBA does. There’s a huge consequence for us as players, especially for me. I’ve been in a lot of incidents where fans, they say whatever. The consequences for me are a lot more detrimental than to those people in the stands, because they feel like they’re untouchable, like they can say what they want. They’re at a sporting event where they should enjoy the game, but a lot of times fans don’t realize it’s our job. This is my job. This is not some play. This is something I love to do, this is something I love competing at.
“So to get food thrown on top of me, it’s just bulls---, really. Fortunately, I couldn’t get to the stands. I just don’t take that lightly. To me, it happens to me a lot of times. Obviously, I’ve learned to kind of look the other way but to a certain extent, you can’t just keep looking the other way. There has to be some penalties or something put in place where fans can’t just come to the games and do and say as they please, because they wouldn’t do that s--- anywhere else — any other setting. And I’m sick and tired of it, honestly.”
As for his injury, Westbrook said he twisted his ankle twice and was hopeful he’d be better with treatment. Game 3 will be Saturday night in Washington, D.C.
He recalled that this was not the first occasion he’s had issues with Sixers fans.
“I had problems here before,” he said. “A fan flipped me off maybe a couple years ago. If you’re a good player, people want to bash you for whatever reason. I don’t mind it. I don’t mind the trash talk or ‘Westbrook sucks, Westbrook can’t shoot’ — that’s all great. You cross the line when you start mentioning families, you start mentioning derogatory things, you start to pour popcorn and that type of s---. To me, it’s crossing the line, and that’s where it has to stop.
“Sports, everybody loves the sport and screaming — that’s all great. Keep it sports. I’m OK with that. If you cross that line, then I have to protect my welfare, I have to protect my family, I have to protect the things that I’ve worked for. But at the same time, I’ve got to be smart. And that’s where the protection has to come, because I can’t go into the stands. … The protection has to be at a high level, especially with fans coming back into the arena.”
Lakers star LeBron James tweeted about the incident, asking that players be protected.
“It always happens to me,” Westbrook said. “It’s just what it is for me. It’s how it goes, unfortunately. We’ll see what happens. Obviously nobody can find the fan but like ‘Bron said, there’s a lot of cameras. We can find him. If they want to find him, they’ll find him.”
Bradley Beal didn’t see what unfolded in real time but watched video after the game.
“It’s disgusting because us as players, we don’t get to protect ourselves and run in the stands and confront somebody who’s disrespecting us,” he said. “We’re here to entertain everyone in this arena. Granted, it may be one bad apple or whatever the case may be, but that’s still not a good look for the city, for the team and for all fans.
“That’s BS, because we go out and compete on a high level night in and night out, and we put our bodies on the line. This is one of the most entertaining sports in all of sports. … At the end of the day, we’ve got to protect the players. There’s plenty of cameras in here, there’s no way we can’t find out who did it. And they should never be able to step into an arena — nowhere — in the U.S.”