The Atlanta Hawks will be opening an investigation into an incident that took place involving Lakers star LeBron James and fans sitting courtside during Monday night’s game in Atlanta. Four fans were ejected from the game after words were exchanged between James and the group, with one of the fans posting to Instagram her side of the story. However, according to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin, none of the fans in question will be banned from attending future Hawks or other NBA games.
After the game, James said he didn’t feel the fans should’ve been ejected and spoke about how he enjoyed having people in attendance. While the fans were escorted out of the game, Hawks CEO Steve Koonin said the team will look into the interaction to see if any further punishment is necessary.
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“I do not know how long this will take,” Koonin said. “It’s the first time I’ve experienced something like this. There’s a protocol. The NBA has a code of conduct [placard] on every chair in the building. This is an NBA matter that obviously we’re involved in. There are NBA security people at every game at every arena in the country.”
Koonin didn’t go into details about what the investigation will entail, or what further punishment would be handed down if its been determined that anyone violated the league’s fan code of conduct. However, the incident won’t alter the Hawks’ position on having fans in State Farm Arena for the rest of the season.
“Nothing is changing,” Koonin said. “I’m not sure I understand your [correlation] between what happened tonight and fans sitting courtside. I sat in the stands, 3 feet further back, so I’m not sure I understand the [correlation]. I don’t think that one thing adds up.
“Again, everyone has been tested. There are rigorous NBA protocols that we followed. If there’s some kind of fan behavioral issue and courtside seats, I do not see the connection.”
Following the announcement that the Hawks would be investigating the incident, one of the fans in question, Juliana Carlos, issued a public apology on Instagram noting that she takes full responsibility for her actions.
“About last night…To say things escalated quickly at yesterday’s game would be an understatement, and I want to apologize for losing my cool and removing my mask in the heat of the moment. My husband is a huge sports fan and we’re passionate people, and let’s be real: sports wouldn’t be sports without a little trash-talking. What should have been a quick back-and-forth between two adults got out of hand and my natural instinct to stand up for the man I love kicked in. Did I get defensive when that happened? Yes. Did I use offensive language when I could have taken the higher road? Yes. And for these things, I take full responsibility.”
The Hawks are one of 10 teams in the league allowing fans this season, with 10 percent (1,700 seats) of State Farm Arena open. Everyone attending games is given a COVID-19 rapid test prior to being allowed to enter arena, and all fans are required to wear masks for the duration of their time inside, except for when eating or drinking.
One of the fans that got into it with LeBron was seen taking her mask down to yell at him, which would obviously be an issue for the league as it tries to preach mask wearing and general safety during a global pandemic.