On May 26, the Utah Jazz defeated the Memphis Grizzlies in Game 2 of their first round NBA Western Conference Playoffs series.
During the game, Memphis guard Ja Morant's parents were the targets of racial abuse and sexually explicit remarks from a group of Jazz fans. As a result, three people were hit with indefinite bans from Vivint Arena.
In an interview with ESPN, Ja's father, Tee Morant, said the fans' comments went "beyond heckling" and was "straight up disrespectful."
The Grizzlies guard added, "my family should be able [to] cheer for me & my teammates without getting inappropriate s--- said to them."
The incident was an especially bleak moment in a Playoffs marred by bad fan behavior, including a fan dumping popcorn on Russell Westbrook in Philadelphia, another spitting on Trae Young in New York, Kyrie Irving having a water bottle thrown at him in Boston, and a fan running onto the court in Washington.
The following day, the Jazz released a statement, saying "We apologize to all who were impacted by this unfortunate incident and condemn unacceptable fan behavior."
I’m glad those fans were banned and they should never be allowed back.... this is ridiculous!!! The fact that these words are being thrown around to players and there families is ridiculous! Enough is enough smh! https://t.co/rfzj0T1W1r— Donovan Mitchell (@spidadmitchell) May 28, 2021
Jazz star Donovan Mitchell sent a tweet in support of the Morant family, saying he was "glad those fans were banned" from his home arena.
On Wednesday night, the Jazz eliminated the Grizzlies from the Playoffs in a 126-110 Game 5 win. After the game, Tee Morant approached Mitchell to thank him for his support and let him know he'd be rooting for Utah to win the NBA championship.
Ja Morant’s father, Tee Morant, told Donovan Mitchell he’s rooting for the Jazz to win the Finals after how they handled three fans directing racist and vulgar taunts towards Morant’s parents ❤️— ESPN (@espn) June 3, 2021
(via @espn_macmahon) pic.twitter.com/fs4k8oldHA
"Hey yo, I'm going for y'all right now," said Morant. "Why? Y'all didn't have to do that. Y'all didn't have to show love to us like that. "This is what I'm saying: When s--- goes bad and then you reach out, that's how you bridge the gap. Most people don't realize that. That's why I appreciate you, and that's why I hope the Jazz win the championship."
Mitchell was appreciative of Morant's support, saying "The fact that he's pulling for us is dope. We appreciate it. There's just a lot of respect. Hard-fought series. I feel like Ja and I are going to have battles for a long time in our careers. This was just the first one, but there's just a lot of respect all around."
The Jazz will go on to face either the Dallas Mavericks or Los Angeles Clippers in the second round.