Verbal altercations between NBA fans and players aren’t new. But this case is a little different.
In Game 3 of the NBA Finals on Wednesday, Toronto Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry was pushed by a man sitting in the front row at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California.
It turns out the “fan” is Golden State Warriors investor Mark Stevens. He won’t be attending any games for a year and he’ll be writing a check for $500,000 to cover a fine announced by the team and the league.
On Thursday, the NBA also announced it was banning Stevens from attending any team activities through the end of next season’s playoffs.
Earlier an NBA spokesman said team representatives are held to the highest possible standard.
“The conduct of Golden State Warriors investor Mark Stevens last night was beyond unacceptable and has no place in our league,” the spokesman, Mike Bass, said in a statement.
Lowry, going after a loose ball, jumped into the stands. Stevens, whom Lowry didn’t land on, shoved him. Lowry called for security, and Stevens was escorted out.
The NBA said Stevens also directed obscene comments at Lowry, whose team led by 10 points at the time, earlier in the fourth quarter. The Raptors went on to win 123-109 have a 2-1 series lead.
The Warriors released a statement on Stevens earlier Thursday.
“Mr. Stevens’ behavior last night did not reflect the high standards that we hope to exemplify as an organization,” the statement said. “We’re extremely disappointed in his actions and, along with Mr. Stevens, offer our sincere apology to Kyle Lowry and the Toronto Raptors organization for this unfortunate misconduct. There is no place for such interaction between fans – or anyone – and players at an NBA game.”
Stevens said in a statement Thursday that he accepts his punishment.
“I take full responsibility for my actions last night at the NBA Finals and am embarrassed by what transpired,” Stevens said. “What I did was wrong and there is no excuse for it.
“Mr. Lowry deserves better, and I have reached out today in an attempt to directly apologize to him and other members of the Raptors and Warriors organizations. I’m grateful to those who accepted my calls. I hope that Mr. Lowry and others impacted by this lapse in judgment understand that the behavior I demonstrated last night does not reflect the person I am or have been throughout my life. I made a mistake and I’m truly sorry. I need to be better and look forward to making it right.”
Speaking to reporters Thursday, Lowry said “there’s no room in our game” for what Stevens did.
“In that situation, I don’t think I could have handled it any better,” Lowry said. “I’m glad I did what I did, and I understand that things could have been a lot different if I reacted a different way or if I did something or put my hands on him or did anything of that nature.
“But the support I’ve gotten from fellow players, the league, has been unbelievable. With that being said, I think more should be done. He’s not a good look for the ownership group that they have. And I know Joe Lacob. Those guys are great guys. The ownership that they have that I know, they’re unbelievable guys. But a guy like that, showing his true class, and he shouldn’t be a part of our league. There’s just no place for that.”
Stevens is listed in the Warriors media guide as one of the organization’s executive board members. It’s not immediately known how much of a stake Stevens has in the team.
Earlier Thursday, the NBA Players Association said it will be closely monitoring the Warriors and the league’s investigation into the situation, NBPA executive director Michele Roberts said in a statement.
“The NBPA has previously expressed its support of a ‘zero-tolerance’ policy with respect to verbal and/or physical assaults perpetrated against players,” Roberts said. “Stevens’ status as a member of the ownership group does not alter that view.”
Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James also weighed in on Thursday, saying that what Stevens did was “so uncalled for.”
“He knew the rules more than just the average person sitting watching the game courtside so for (that’s) something needs to be done ASAP!” James said in an Instagram post. “A swift action for his actions.”