PHILADELPHIA (REUTERS) – Washington Wizards guard Russell Westbrook called for more protection for players after a fan poured popcorn on his head as he made his way to the dressing room during Wednesday’s (May 26) National Basketball Association play-offs game against the Philadelphia 76ers.
He was limping to the locker room after suffering an ankle injury in the fourth quarter and was showered with popcorn by a fan seated above the tunnel at the Wells Fargo Centre.
He reacted furiously and had to be held back by Wizards staff and security guards.
“I wouldn’t come up to me on the street and throw popcorn on my head because you know what happens,” Westbrook, who had rolled his ankle after stepping on the foot of 76ers guard Furkan Korkmaz, said.
“In these arenas, you got to start protecting the players. We’ll see what the NBA does.”
ESPN reported a fan seated near the tunnel was escorted out shortly after the incident, which came with 10 minutes left in Game 2 in the first round of the play-offs. The 76ers won 120-95 to take a 2-0 lead in the series.
“For me, there are a lot of incidents where fans, they say whatever, and the consequences for me are a lot more instrumental than to the fans in the stands because they feel they are untouchable,” Westbrook, who scored 10 points on two of 10 shooting with 11 assists in 29 minutes, added.
“Obviously I have learned to 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 to put in place where fans just can’t come to the games and do and say as they please.”
Wizards coach Scott Brooks said the fan should be banned while the Wells Fargo Centre released a statement saying the incident was “classless, unacceptable behaviour” from the fan.
“We’re proud to have the most passionate fans in the country … but this type of behaviour has no place in our arena,” Valerie Camillo, the president of business operations for the Wells Fargo Centre, said.
The incident prompted a tweet from Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James.
“By the way WE AS THE PLAYERS wanna see who threw that popcorn on Russ while he was leaving the game tonight with a injury!! There’s cameras all over arenas so there’s no excuse! Cause if the was on the other.”
Reuters has requested comment from the NBA.
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