OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The NBA regular season tips off tonight and as for fans in the stands and players on the court, they will have to be on their best behavior.
The league has new rules they say will protect players and coaches, so all can enjoy the game.
“When you think of an NBA game, pretty much more than any other sport, fans are right there. There are fans that sit in the same row as the players,” said Dan Mahoney, VP of Broadcast of the OKC Thunder.
That proximity has lead to ugly moments.
Last year in Salt Lake City, Russel Westbrook got into an argument with a Jazz fan.
The fan used ‘disrespectful’ and ‘racial’ language. The man was ejected and banned for life.
The NBA has always had a code of conduct for fans but now…
“There is an enhanced code of conduct for those who sit very close to the floor, to the benches, where the players and coaches and staff are,” said Mahoney.
That new code focuses on anything denigrating, racist, sexist or LGBTQ language, anything that is not basketball-related.
That obviously includes gestures.
If fans do and say these types of things there will be consequences.
“We will take the action that is necessary if that fan truly violated and blatantly violated which can include banning them, taking their tickets away,” said Mahoney.
The NBA is basically putting more power into the hands of team officials to crack down on bad behavior by fans.
“Is that a good thing? Absolutely. I’ve been in the league a long time. I’ve heard a lot of stuff. At the end of the day, it’s entertainment but us players, we are human too,” said Thunder guard, Chris Paul.
“It’s unfortunate that it happens, but it does happen. But it seems like the league is trying to take a stand on trying to make the environment as safe for these guys to play in and people can enjoy the game,” said Thunder Head Coach Billy Donovan.
So what does it mean for fans headed to the home opener on Friday?
“We just ask our fans, which they always are, to be respectful. Don`t take it beyond basketball. Don`t take it beyond the normal course of human and civil discourse. It’s common sense, respect, and Oklahomans know how to treat people,” said Mahoney.
Also, a word for the wise, be careful who you loan your tickets, too. League officials say season ticket holders can lose their seats no matter who actually performs the bad behavior.
Mahoney says every usher has the authority to remove fans if they blatantly engage in bad behavior.
Both Mahoney and Donovan stress that most fans around the league, and especially in OKC, are well behaved but there have to be rules in place to make sure the game is enjoyable for all.