NBA investigates fans’ ejection for verbal altercation with LeBron James

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Several fans were ejected from Monday’s Hawks game after a verbal altercation with Lakers star LeBron James.

The altercation came in the fourth quarter, with 8:09 remaining, between the fans, seated courtside, and James during the Hawks’ 107-99 loss. Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Hawks just began to allow limited fans into State Farm Arena last week. Game officials intervened before the group was ejected.

The NBA looked into the matter, per Hawks CEO Steve Koonin, so the Hawks had to write up reports on what happened. All fans who sit in the courtside seats (that have been pushed back a few yards further than normal) take a rapid-response COVID-19 test before they’re allowed in. There’s also a code of conduct that fans must adhere to when attending games.

After the investigation concluded Tuesday night, the Hawks are moving on and no fans will receive a ban, per Koonin: “We have accepted both of their apologies, and we are all moving on,” Koonin said.

A woman, identified as Juliana Carlos on her Instagram post following the incident, said she and her husband, who she named Chris, were ejected with an expletive-laden account on social media. She began the video while in a back hallway at State Farm Arena. Carlos’ husband has been a longtime Hawks season-ticket holder.

“So, I’m minding my own business, and Chris has been a Hawks fan forever. He’s been watching the games for 10 years,” the woman said in the post. “Whatever, he has this issue with LeBron. I don’t have an issue with LeBron. I don’t give a (expletive) about LeBron. Anyway, I’m minding my own business, drinking my wine, having fun. All of the sudden, LeBron says something to my husband, and I see this and I stand up. And I go, ‘Don’t (expletive) talk to my husband.’ And he looks at me and he goes, ‘Sit the (expletive) down, (expletive).’ And I go, ‘Don’t (expletive) call me a (expletive). You sit the (expletive) down. Don’t (expletive) talk to my husband like that.’ ”

On Tuesday afternoon, Carlos issued an apology via Instagram, saying she wanted to “apologize for losing (her) cool and removing (her) mask in the heat of the moment.”

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

James addressed the incident following the game in an interview with reporters. He said he didn’t think the fans should have been ejected, but did say the fan said something “out of bounds” and were drinking.

“At the end of the day, I’m happy fans are back in the building,” James said. “I miss that interaction. I need that interaction. We as players need that interaction. I don’t feel like they were warranted to be kicked out. There was a back-and-forth between two grown men and we said our peace. He said his peace. I said my peace. And then someone else jumped in and said their peace. I didn’t think they should have been kicked out. But they might have had a couple drinks maybe. And they could have probably kept it going during the game, and the game wouldn’t have been about the game no more, so I think the referees did what they had to do.”

James also posted on Twitter following the game: “Courtside Karen was MAD MAD!!”

On Tuesday, Hawks wing Kevin Huerter chimed in, saying the back-and-forth was “all in good fun.”

“I think in the end, everybody can kind of laugh about it,” Huerter said. “Hopefully no one takes that interaction too seriously, because it wasn’t.”

The Hawks have been allowing fans in State Farm Arena since Jan. 26 at an 8% capacity. The team announced an attendance of 1,341.

According to a spokesperson, the Hawks would not have a statement on the incident.

-Staff writer Sarah K. Spencer contributed to this article.