Ja Morant spotted his family during the third quarter of Game 2 of the Western Conference playoffs Wednesday talking with Vivint Arena security in Salt Lake City. He alerted a member of the Memphis Grizzlies security team to check it out.
Morant initially wanted his family to calm down and not cheer as loud if fans were bothered. But he changed his mind postgame after hearing that his family received racist and sexist comments from Utah Jazz fans.
“I got frustrated because obviously I was telling them to stay cool. But if I knew what they said, I would’ve just let my family handle business instead of calm them down,” Morant said Friday. “It’s tough on all of us, but we move forward.”
The Jazz banned three fans on Thursday and owner Ryan Smith issued an apology on Twitter to the Grizzlies and Morant’s family.
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Morant said he invited a double-digit number of family members to the game because he’s heard about Utah’s reputation for hostile fans. He praised the fans who were friendly and respectful and pointed out other fans being inappropriate.
But he said he’s not sure if his family will return to Utah for Game 5.
“It’s very unacceptable what went on. My family’s doing well. It’s just mind-blowing that type of stuff still continues in the world today,” he said.
Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins, who also heard abut Utah’s reputation, called it “beyond disappointing.” Tee Morant, Ja’s father, said on 92.9 ESPN that not only was his family heckled, but they heard some fans call Dillon Brooks’ family “half-breeds.”
It prompted Jenkins to question how fans could want to return to society yet bring inappropriate behavior back as well.
“Everybody’s been cooped up with COVID and staying home and clamoring for sports and being back in social arenas and atmosphere, and this is what you do,” Jenkins said. “It’s at the core of humanity that needs to get addressed and I’m just beyond disappointed.”
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It was another reason the Grizzlies were glad to return home for two games starting Saturday for Game 3 with the series tied 1-1. FedExForum will be at 55% capacity for both Games 3 and 4.
Morant was glad the fans were banned, but suggested that the NBA take a further step by allowing visiting family and friends to be placed together in one section. For now, they are spread out and surrounded individually by opposing fans.
As someone close to his family, Morant enjoys their presence at games as much as they do being loud and supportive. It made him appreciate being back in Memphis where “we’re comfortable and have fans who embrace us and love us and treat us like their own.”
But he wants them to enjoy games on the road as well.
“They should be able to go wherever we go and still be able to cheer and be comfortable without things getting said to them,” Morant said.
Follow Evan Barnes on Twitter @evan_b.