Washington Wizards: Russell Westbrook demands respect. Give it to him.

Washington Wizards Russell Westbrook. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
Washington Wizards Russell Westbrook. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images) /

The NBA world came to the defense of Russell Westbrook shortly after the popcorn incident in game two. He was injured and walking to the locker room, visibly frustrated as the Washington Wizards got routed by the Philadelphia 76ers. And that’s when a fan decided to dump popcorn on his head.

What that ‘fan’ did was classless, despicable, and problematic, to put it mildly.

Everything went wrong for the Wizards in game two. Neither the incident nor the injury has anything to with why they lost. But their winning or losing isn’t the point of this article.

I want to know what that fan was thinking when he poured food on Russell Westbrook as if he were a circus animal. What did he think gave him the right to act so disrespectfully?

Russell Westbrook deserves far more respect from fans than what he experienced in game two between the Washington Wizards and Philadelphia 76ers.

This isn’t the first time fans have had chippy interactions with the newly crowned Triple-Double King. There was controversy in Utah where a fan sued him for defamation. A judge just ruled in favor of Westbrook, throwing out the case. Then there’s the other time a 76ers fan flipped him the bird and shouted expletives to his face.

Looking squarely at the Philadelphia fan(s)’ behavior from game two, one question comes to mind: why are you doing this to Russell Westbrook?

Did this person feel like he and the 76ers were somehow above players like him? He had to. It’s the only logical explanation. Nobody humiliates someone in that manner just for giggles.

To say Westbrook overreacted or that he’s just salty because the Washington Wizards are down 0-2 is just another symptom of a bigger problem with how spectators view athletes.

There’s been a climate circling around Westbrook’s name for years, and it reared its ugly head. This current age of people running their mouths on social media has transferred over to the real world, where fans believe they have a free license to do whatever they want to athletes with impunity.

But the anonymity many enjoy online isn’t there in an arena. No fan should behave that way with any athlete ever. But it’s particularly egregious when a fan does something like this to a player of Russ’ caliber. He’s an MVP, two-time scoring champion, three-time assists leader, and a nine-time All-Star.

Popcorngate demonstrates a lack of appreciation for greatness when it’s standing right in front of us. Athletes with Westbrook’s physical gifts and mentality come around once in a generation, and this is how we treat him?

Enough is enough. Being passionate for your team doesn’t mean trying to take away another person’s dignity (another example from this week: Trae Young at MSG). Even rising stars’ families are on the receiving end.

It’s time for a culture shift, where we respect great players while they’re still playing regardless of fandom or team allegiance. And anyone who might feel some type of way after reading this needs to grow up.

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