Phoenix Suns coach Monty Williams said the NBA should consider having a special section in the stands reserved for the families of visiting teams in the wake of Chris Paul‘s family being harassed during Sunday’s playoff game in Dallas.
The incident happened during Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals between the Dallas Mavericks and Suns. Several family members of Paul were in attendance, and were harassed and physically contacted by a fan in the crowd, sources told ESPN on Sunday night.
Paul addressed the disturbing Mother’s Day incident on social media following the Mavericks’ 111-101 win that tied the series at 2-2.
He tweeted: “Wanna fine players for saying stuff to the fans but the fans can put they hands on our families … f— that!!”
Paul’s mother, Robin, as well as his wife, Jada, and their two children watched the game in seats close behind the Suns’ bench at American Airlines Center, sources told ESPN. His mother had hands put on her and his wife was pushed, a source familiar with the situation told ESPN, and Paul’s kids were there to witness it. Paul’s wife was also followed up the aisle when she left her seat, a separate source said.
“They felt very unsafe,” a source familiar with the situation told ESPN.
“It’s a hard one, because it’s happening more and more,” Williams said Monday at Suns practice. “The situations are getting to a place now where I really feel like families, who are there to support their loved ones, need to be protected a bit more. Whether or not we have to give these people a section, a suite, something has to be done.
“Because we can’t wait for it to get to a level or two higher, before we do what we need to do. Yesterday was unnecessary.”
The Mavericks said after the game that they were aware of the incident between a fan and Paul’s family at American Airlines Center. Williams said he didn’t know the extent of the harassment in real time because the game was still being played.
“It was unacceptable behavior and will not be tolerated,” the Mavericks said in a statement. “The Mavericks, along with American Airlines Center, swiftly removed the fan from today’s game.”
On Monday, the Mavericks released another statement regarding the investigation into the incident. “American Airlines Center and Dallas Mavericks security and executives have concluded the investigation into the incident involving the Paul family. Two unruly fans attempted to give unwanted hugs and have conversations with members of the Paul family on the public concourse of American Airlines Center,” the team said. “AAC security responded immediately once notified by the family and the fans were swiftly ejected from the game. The fans involved in the incident will not be allowed to return to the arena until 2023.”
Paul didn’t speak to the media after Monday’s practice.
Suns forward Cam Johnson said a similar situation happened in Milwaukee last season during the NBA Finals when his girlfriend was hit in the back of the head and had beer spilled on her. Johnson said he didn’t hear about the incident until after the game.
“It was kind of a big scene,” Johnson said. “It really frustrated me.”
Johnson said security in Milwaukee handled the situation and that the fan was kicked out of the game. He said security can only do so much to keep families safe.
“A large part of the responsibility has to be on fans,” Johnson said. “They just can’t act that way. There’s no other way around it. You’ve got to address the problem with the real problem. It’s that a fan can’t go up to someone’s mother and harass them.”
Game 5 is Tuesday night in Phoenix, with the series tied 2-2.
“I have to stress that I don’t think this is indicative of the fans in Dallas,” Williams said. “They’re cheering for their team. I’ve never had this kind of incident at that arena, even going back to the old spot, Reunion Arena, never.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.