MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WREG) — It’s been a hostile environment inside of Vivint Arena for games one and two of the Jazz and Grizzlies playoffs series.
For that reason, Ja Morant invited as many family members as he could to Salt Lake City for support.
“Anytime I get in my groove and get to talking, I always look to them because I know where they are at and I know they’re probably talking the same just like me,” Morant said. “So, I actually get a lot of energy from them.”
What he didn’t know is his family would be the latest victims of altercations involving fans inside of NBA playoff games.
“And at some point again, I look up again and my family was getting escorted to the top,” said Morant.
As a result of the verbal altercation, the Jazz banned three fans indefinitely following an investigation.
Morant said, “It’s just mind-blowing that that type of stuff still continues in the world today.”
“It’s beyond disappointing,” said Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins. “I could go harsher and use other words, but to have sexists remarks and racist remarks said to another human being – whether they’re on your side or on the other side in terms of competition. I though about this the other day, everyone has been cooped up with COVID, staying at home and clamoring for sports and being back in social arenas and atmospheres and this is what you do.”
This is the third incident this week involving fans and inappropriate behavior. Wednesday night, a Knicks fan spit on Hawks guard Trae Young and a 76ers fan threw popcorn on Wizards star Russell Westbrook.
“I have the upmost faith in our fanbase to be the most competitive, the most rowdy, but also the most hospitable, respectful as they always are,” Jenkins said. “But to know that this exists in our country, in our NBA arenas, in our fanbases, something further has to be addressed in my opinion.”
Jazz all-star guard Donovan Mitchell, incensed at what happened to Morant, called Ja after game two and said he was proud of the way the second-year star handled the situation.
Mitchell also said enough is enough.
“What you’re saying about Ja [Morant’s] mother – or mother and father – you’re saying to my mother and father,” Mitchell said. “It’s not like you’re speaking to the Grizzlies, you’re speaking to a black man, black woman. I feel like that’s first. Basketball is what it is, but that’s first. And that’s what we are, we’re African American men and women first and when you go out there and say something like that, that’s just terrible. It’s ridiculous.”
Jenkins said his star point guard is already motivated, but this incident involving his family is one he’s taking personally.
“He goes out there and plays with a chip of his shoulder and obviously he showed that in the first two games, so I think he’s motivated enough to his team win and try to get to the next level,” said Jenkins.
Morant said his family is doing well, he also wanted to emphasize that it wasn’t all of the Jazz fans that were being problematic. He said there were some fans that were actually standing up for his family, and that meant a lot to him.