Wells Fargo Center Issues Indefinite Ban to Fan Who Threw Popcorn on Russell Westbrook

The Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia on Thursday indefinitely banned a fan who threw popcorn on Washington Wizards star guard Russell Westbrook during Wednesday night's NBA playoff game against the 76ers, the Associated Press reported.

The fan threw the popcorn after Westbrook suffered an ankle injury and was leaving the game. The fan, who was not identified by the 76ers, has been banned from all events at the Wells Fargo Center.

"We apologize to Russell Westbrook and the Washington Wizards for being subjected to this type of unacceptable and disrespectful behavior," the 76ers said in a statement. "There is no place for it in our sport or arena."

The NBA said that regulations on fan behavior will be "vigorously enforced" and stood behind the 76ers. The league has had ongoing issues with fan behavior in its arena and Westbrook, who has been involved with fans before, said Wednesday night that the arenas "got to start protecting the players."

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Washington Wizards' Russell Westbrook After Injury
The Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia on Thursday indefinitely banned a fan who threw popcorn on Washington Wizards star guard Russell Westbrook during Wednesday night's NBA playoff game against the 76ers. Above, Westbrook is helped to the locker room after an injury suffered during the game. Matt Slocum/AP Photo

NBA buildings are welcoming their largest crowds of the season for the playoffs, after a regular season where attendance was severely limited because of policies put in place to keep players and others safe during the pandemic.

It has not been without problems, and players are airing concerns.

The popcorn incident with Westbrook came on the same night in which fans in New York directed profane chants at Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young in Madison Square Garden, just as they had in the series opener there on Sunday.

And Brooklyn guard Kyrie Irving—in advance of Game 3 of the Nets' series against the Celtics in Boston—said he hoped the scene there on Friday night "is strictly basketball, there's no belligerence or any racism going on, subtle racism, people yelling [expletive] from the crowd."

"The return of more NBA fans to our arenas has brought great excitement and energy to the start of the playoffs, but it is critical that we all show respect for players, officials and our fellow fans," the NBA said Thursday.

One high-profile incident Westbrook was involved in was when a fan in Utah was alleged to have directed racial taunts his way. Westbrook was fined $25,000 for his reactions to that incident, one in which Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell came to his defense.

"We'll see what the NBA does," Westbrook said Wednesday night. "I've been in a lot of incidents where fans, they say whatever, and the consequences for me are a lot more detrimental to those people in the stands because they feel like they're untouchable."

After the Westbrook incident in Utah two years ago, the league changed and toughened its code of conduct for fans, including putting those in closest proximity to the players and the court on alert that anything over the line will lead to ejections and possibly more.

Players such as Westbrook and Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James—who chimed in on Twitter shortly after the Westbrook incident Wednesday—still clearly believe that fan behavior remains a major issue.

"I'm sick and tired of it, honestly," Westbrook said.

Russell Westbrook at Wells Fargo Center
The Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia on Thursday indefinitely banned a fan who threw popcorn on Washington Wizards star guard Russell Westbrook during Wednesday night's NBA playoff game against the 76ers. Above, Ben Simmons (25) of the Philadelphia 76ers dunks over Westbrook (4) during Game 2 of the Eastern Conference first-round series at Wells Fargo Center on May 26, 2021. Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images