A growing issue facing the NBA has been the words that players hear in their interactions with fans. The most prominent example of this came with Russell Westbrook and a fan of the Utah Jazz last season, and on Saturday evening, an exchange between Isaiah Thomas and fans of the Philadelphia 76ers led to the Washington Wizards guard getting ejected from the game.
During the fourth quarter of Washington’s 125-108 loss, Thomas walked into the stands and had an apparent exchange with a few Sixers fans. It did not look like a particularly contentious exchange, but it still led to Thomas getting tossed.
— NBC Sports Wizards (@NBCSWizards) December 22, 2019
It was unclear what prompted this, but Thomas was obviously unhappy with whatever the fan said to him, and after the game, he elaborated on what went down. Thomas met with the media and explained that he’s “never gonna be disrespected in any way” before diving into the incident.
Isaiah Thomas said the fan he approached in the stands gave him two middle fingers and yelled “Fuck you, bitch!” three times: pic.twitter.com/z1Fk4LVKdW
— Fred Katz (@FredKatz) December 22, 2019
“So when I missed the first free throw and made the second, I’m running back and a fan has both of his middle fingers up and said, ‘f*ck you, b*tch’ three times,” Thomas said. “So then the time out goes and I go in the stands to confront him, I say, ‘Don’t be disrespectful,’ that calm. ‘I’m a man before anything, and be a fan,’ And his response was, ‘I’m sorry, I just wanted a Frosty.’”
The Sixers have a promotion where fans in attendance get a free Frosty from Wendy’s if an opposing player misses two consecutive free throws during the second half of a game — if you have watched a Philly game sometime in the last few years, you’ve assuredly seen fans come unglued when someone on the other team misses the front end of a trip to the free throw line. Thomas went onto say that he believes these sorts of remarks have no place in the league, and that while he’s been in the league for some time, this was especially bad.
“I would never do that to anybody else,” Thomas said. “That crossed the line — I’ve got kids, I’ve got a family, that’s not ok at all. So I just went to go tell him that.”
Thomas is, of course, 100 percent correct here. Fans being able to interact with players is part of what makes the NBA so much fun, but ultimately, all of that needs to happen in good fun and not get to the point where players get uncomfortably.