Interactions between fans and professional athletes are commonplace at sporting events and lines are crossed more often than many of us realize. On Monday night, a spat between Russell Westbrook and a fan of the Utah Jazz was caught on camera and went viral, both due to threats Westbrook made towards the fan and the comments reportedly made by the fan that started it all.
The incident was ugly enough to earn the fan a lifetime ban from Jazz games and Westbrook a $25,000 fine. It also caught the attention of Wizards players, who shared their thoughts after Tuesday's practice at the Medstar performance center in Southeast Washington.
"I feel like alcohol gives you a lot of confidence. [Crowds of] people do, too. Those are the two elements," forward Jabari Parker told NBC Sports Washington.
"If you were ever to come up to me by yourself, you would have the utmost respect, so you should have that. I think it's just the culture. Things are passed down through age. Bad parenting is a contribution in that because people learn that from elders when they're kids. So, they don't give people that type of respect. All I know is my father would never tolerate that type of respect and treatment of other people. Regardless if I'm on the opposing team or if I'd ever be a fan, he taught me to never be a bad sport in cheering for your team or cheering for the other team."
Wizards big man Bobby Portis has a different viewpoint. Though he often hears fans say offensive things, he believes it comes with the territory and is confident in his restraint to not fire back.
"I love when the fans go after us. This is our job and they pay their money to come say what they want to say. They pay big money to come watch us. We're entertainers, so I think they have that right. I saw the conflict between Westbrook and the fan, but each guy said different things," Portis said.
"With me, people cross the line with me all the time in the stands. I just laugh at it. At the end of the day, I'm playing this game for the fun of it and I want to make the most money as possible for my family. I can't let a fan discourage that or kind of derail me from making it."
Portis said the worst fans are in Boston and Golden State. He said of the Warriors, that "their fans are kind of spoiled, so they talk a lot."
Portis says fans should try to get under the skin of opposing players because it helps the home team. And the opposing players should be able to block it out and do their job.
Portis prides himself on shutting his hecklers up and recalls doing just that last year when he returned to action after missing time following a fight with his teammate.
"When I came back last year from suspension, it was like everybody was against me on the road. I think that fueled some fire in me. It made me play really well, wanting to prove those people wrong," he said.
Portis, in fact, embraces fan ridicule so much, he says he has profited off of it. All the time he hears about his large eyes. That trend goes back years and Portis found a way to capitalize on a business opportunity.
"I know like my first couple years in the league, they would say stuff about my eyes. It was funny at first. It was real funny," he said.
"I kind of made like this big thing out of it. I made some shirts out of it and then everybody started supporting it. I kind of turned the joke into something that was cool for me. I made a lot of money off of it."
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