As one story of a Jazz fan getting in trouble for heckling an opposing player ends, another opens.
Two incidents of Jazz fans caught the country’s attention on Thursday – one resulting from an incident in March 2019 and the other from an incident during Wednesday’s Game 2 first round playoff between the Jazz. and the Memphis Grizzlies.
In the most recent incident, the family of Grizzlies guard Ja Morant were heckled as they watched their son score 47 points in a possible Jazz victory. Vivint Arena staff intervened and removed three fans responsible for the exchange.
Morant’s father told ESPN what he heard from fans during the game: A fan made a “sexually explicit” remark to his wife, Jamie. Another said, according to Morant, “I’m going to put a dime on your back and watch you dance, boy.” The remark prompted nearby Jazz fans to alert security, according to ESPN. A third fan shouted two curses at Jamie Morant.
“I can heckle,” Ja’s father Tee Morant told ESPN’s Tim MacMahon. “But it’s different from heckling. It is downright disrespectful.
The Jazz released a statement on this Thursday night:
“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 personnel intervened, and the investigation resulted in the removal and indefinite ban of three Jazz fans, ”said the press release. “We apologize to all who were affected by this unfortunate incident and condemn the unacceptable behavior of the fans. The Utah Jazz are committed to ensuring a safe and respectful environment.
Morant tweeted about the incident on Thursday. “My family should be able (to) cheer for me and my teammates without being inappropriately told to them,” Morant said.
There were also good interactions: jazz fans nearby declared having bought beers with the Morant family. Morant complimented those fans, telling ESPN, “We were joking with a bunch of fans around us throughout the game,” Tee Morant said. “We had a good time. “
Tee Morant also said “he was satisfied with the response to the arena security incidents and the Jazz organization.”
Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell also commented on the situation, tweeter “I’m glad these fans were banned and should never be allowed to come back… that’s ridiculous !!! The fact that these words are being thrown at players and families is ridiculous! Enough is enough smh!
But overall, the incident will only serve to strengthen the reputation of jazz fans as a group hostile to opponents; sometimes spanning acceptable lines of conduct.
That reputation was also bolstered after an incident in March 2019, when jazz fan Shane Keisel traded beards with Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook. Keisel heckled Westbrook by saying, Westbrook said, the Oklahoma City star goaltender should “get down on his knees like before.” Westbrook took offense at Keisel’s comments, threatening Keisel and his girlfriend, Jennifer Huff.
After the incident spread widely on social media, Westbrook denounced Keisel’s heckling as racial in nature, and the Jazz banned Keisel from the arena. Westbrook was fined $ 25,000.
Next, Keisel and Huff sued the Jazz and Westbrook for a total of $ 100 million in damages for libel and infliction of emotional distress. Keisel cited the loss of his job and friendships as evidence to support his claim.
Utah Fourth District Judge Derek Pullan on Thursday dismissed Keisel and Huff’s case; the judge did not accept the argument of Keisel, Huff and their lawyers. Ultimately, Pullan ruled that the Jazz’s statement was liable to defamation, but ultimately protected by the Jazz’s right to express its opinion publicly.
Pullan also ruled that Westbrook’s post-match statement, in which he called Keisel’s heckling racist in nature, did not explicitly refer to the two by name and was also protected by Westbrook’s First Amendment rights.
Jazz fans aren’t the only ones making headlines about fan-player incidents; in fact, two other incidents also occurred, one in each of Wednesday night’s playoff games. Philadelphia fan threw popcorn at Westbrook as he left the ground with an ankle injury; the fan has been suspended indefinitely from attending team events. Another fan in New York was seen spitting at Hawks guard Trae Young; he was also banned indefinitely from Knicks games.