Ja Morant spotted his family during the third quarter of the 2nd game of the Western Conference playoffs on Wednesday talking to Vivint Arena security in Salt Lake City. He warned a member of the Memphis Grizzlies security team to check it out.
Morant initially wanted his family to calm down and not cheer so loudly if the fans bothered him. But after hearing that, he changed his mind his family received racist and sexist comments from Utah Jazz fans.
“I was frustrated because I was obviously telling them to stay cool. But if I knew what they were saying, I would just let my family run the business instead of calming them down,” Morant said on Friday. “It’s hard for all of us, but we’re moving forward.”
The Jazz banned the three fans on Thursday and owner Ryan Smith on Twitter apologized to the Grizzlies and Morant family.
Morant said he invited a double-digit number of family members to the game because he had heard of Utah’s reputation as hostile fans. He praised the fans who were friendly and respectful and pointed out that other fans were inappropriate.
But he said he is not sure if his family will return to Utah for the 5th game.
“It is very unacceptable what happened. My family is doing well. It is astonishing that such things continue in the world today,” he said.
Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins, who has also heard of the reputation of Utah’s reputation, called it “beyond disappointing”. Tee Morant, Jain’s father, said on 92.9 ESPN that his family was not only entertained, but heard that some fans called the Dillon Brooks family “semi-breeds”.
It prompted Jenkins to question how fans might want to return to society and yet return to inappropriate behavior.
“Everyone is preoccupied with COVID, staying home and demanding sports, returning to social arenas and the atmosphere, and that’s what you do,” Jenkins said. “It’s the core of humanity that needs to be addressed and I’m just disappointed.”
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It was another reason the Grizzlies were happy to return home for two games starting Saturday for Game 3 with a 1-1 draw. FedExForum will have 55% capacity for Games 3 and 4.
Morant was glad the fans were banned, but suggested the NBA take a further step by allowing visiting family and friends to be housed 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 the games as much as those who are loud and supportive. Because of him, he appreciated a return to Memphis, where we are “comfortable and have fans who embrace and love us and treat us as their own.”
But he wants them to enjoy the games along the way.
“They should be able to go wherever we go, while still being able to cheer and be comfortable without being told things,” Morant said.
Follow Evan Barnes on Twitter @evan_b.