The three fans banned indefinitely by the Utah Jazz made vulgar and racist comments to Ja Morant’s parents, the father of the Memphis Grizzlies’ star guard told ESPN.
A statement from the Jazz cited one “verbal altercation” that occurred during Utah’s 141-129 victory at Vivint Arena on Wednesday night in Game 2 of a first-round playoff series, but Tee Morant said there were three separate incidents with male Jazz fans, adding that each was handled quickly by arena security.
“I know heckling,” Tee Morant said in a phone interview with ESPN on Thursday night. “We were doing that the whole game. But that’s different than heckling. That’s straight up disrespectful. That was too far out of line. You don’t say nothing like that heckling. That’s beyond heckling.”
Ja Morant, in a tweet posted later Thursday, agreed with Utah’s decision to ban the fans, writing, “my family should be able [to] cheer for me & my teammates without getting inappropriate s— said to them.”
Morant went on to write that his family told him they “felt the love from all the other jazz fans who were around them” and that it was just the three fans who “went too far.”
Tee Morant said one fan made a sexually explicit remark to his wife, Jamie. Tee Morant, who was sitting a couple of seats over, confronted the man before security deescalated the situation, ejecting the Jazz fan.
According to Tee Morant, another Jazz fan told him, “I’ll put a nickel in your back and watch you dance, boy.” Several other Jazz fans, who had been enjoying good-spirited trash talk with the Morants and their family friends, confronted that fan and alerted security. Tee Morant said he was shocked that the Jazz fan, who was ejected, made such a comment with the man’s young daughter by his side.
The third fan who was ejected yelled at Jamie Morant, “Shut the f— up, b—-,” Tee Morant said.
“The Utah Jazz have zero tolerance for offensive or disruptive behavior,” the Jazz said in a statement Thursday. “An incident occurred last night involving a verbal altercation during Game 2. Arena security staff intervened, and the investigation resulted in the removal and banning of three Jazz fans indefinitely.
“We apologize to all who were impacted by this unfortunate incident and condemn unacceptable fan behavior.”
Jazz owner Ryan Smith addressed the Grizzlies and Morant’s family on Twitter, writing that the franchise is “embarrassed and sorry.”
“The Utah Jazz have zero tolerance for offensive behavior,” Smith wrote in his tweet. “We are committed to creating a respectful, competitive environment.”
Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell also supported the bans and called the fans’ actions “ridiculous.”
“I’m glad those fans were banned and they should never be allowed back…. this is ridiculous!!!” Mitchell wrote on Twitter. “The fact that these words are being thrown around to players and there families is ridiculous! Enough is enough smh!”
Ja Morant, who scored 47 points — a franchise playoff record — in the loss, tweeted out the hashtag “#protectourplayers” not long after Game 2.
The incident marked the third from Wednesday night’s NBA playoff games alone that resulted in fans getting banned from arenas, prompting statements from the NBA and its players’ union.
Tee Morant did not attend the Grizzlies’ Game 1 win because he was celebrating his mother’s birthday with her, but he said one Jazz fan shouted, “Boy!” at his son during the series opener in Salt Lake City. Ja Morant responded by pointing toward the fan.
“I think they exchanged words, but it wasn’t that bad,” Tee Morant said.
Tee Morant said he was pleased with the response to the incidents by arena security and the Jazz organization. He said he was “able to clear my mind and get back to talking to the great fans” seated around them.
“We were bantering back and forth with a group of fans around us all game,” said Tee Morant, who is known for loudly and proudly cheering for his son, often exchanging good-natured trash talk with fans on the road. “We had a good time.”
At the end of the game, according to Tee Morant, one of the friendly fans said, “We hope you’re back Wednesday, Tee.”
Tee Morant’s response: “You better know I’m going to be back when we’re up 3-1 and close you out.”