The top story of the first round of the NBA playoffs hasn't been the hotly contested series in the Western Conference. It's been about the return of fans — and not in a good way.
Rather than celebrate the return of near-capacity crowds, the league has been forced to address unruly and abusive fan behavior across NBA arenas. With no obvious answers to thwart individual incidents among crowds of thousands, the league looked to some of its stars on Tuesday to appeal to fans behaving badly.
Damian Lillard, Blake Griffin, Enes Kanter, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Dwight Powell took part in a social media campaign with a basic message: Please, stop. Don't stop being fans. But if you've got nefarious urges, don't act on them.
That wasn't the exact wording, of course. But that's the gist of the video that was accompanied by dramatic piano music and posted to Twitter.
'Treat everybody in the building respectfully'
"Let's make it fun and safe for everyone involved," the players took turns reading. "We ask that you guys treat everybody in the building respectfully. Players, coaches, referees and, of course, your fellow fans. Be loud, be rowdy, do everything y'all want to do. But be respectful."
Will message land with intended audience?
That's a simple ask that appeals to reasonable people who don't need to hear it in the first place. Act right. Treat others with dignity. Don't get arrested. These are basic tenets to large swaths of NBA fans.
But to some, they're not. And this message isn't likely to appeal to somebody who acts on the urge to spit on an NBA player or dump food on a player or hurl racist language at a player's relative. It's not going to change the mind of a guy who throws a bottle at a player he doesn't like or decides that the upside of running onto the court during game play outweighs the downside of getting arrested.
And that's the challenge facing the NBA. How does the league identify these fans and either compel them to resist their urges or, better yet, just stay home?
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