Phil Barber: Warriors should cut ties with co-owner Mark Stevens after shove
OAKLAND — At first, it was hard to figure out what was happening. Toronto’s Kyle Lowry attempted to save a ball from going out of bounds with 10:37 left in the Warriors’ loss to the Raptors in Game 3 of the NBA Finals on Wednesday night, and he looked upset about something. Lowry engaged with someone in the first row of seating, then barked at officials through the ensuing timeout.
“I was furious,” Lowry said before Toronto practiced Thursday at Oracle. “I’m not going to lie.”
The Oracle Arena crowd booed. The fans thought Lowry should pipe down.
The facts emerged in stages. Someone posted a video showing that after Lowry crashed into the stands, a spectator reached over and shoved him. Lowry claims the man told the prone player to “go (blank) yourself” several times.
Not good. But not as bad as what emerged Thursday morning, as first reported by Axios. The confrontational “fan” was much more than that. He is Mark Stevens, part of the Warriors ownership group since 2013. A representative of the home team, a man with a financial stake in its wins and losses, had laid hands upon an opposing player.
“I thought, for him to do that, he’s got to be a regular fan that just got those seats from somebody, not knowing any better,” Toronto’s Danny Green said. “When it came out, I was shocked, and a little appalled, about his behavior.”
And so we have another entry in the lengthening ledger of customers crossing the line of decorum at sporting events. Give Stevens credit; being a minority owner gives his offense a certain creative panache.
Stevens’ shove also represents an extreme example of the trait that binds a lot of modern-day fan misbehavior: entitlement. Sometimes it’s just a drunken loudmouth who believes the $50 he paid for a ticket gives him the right to curse out an opposing player. But for someone like Stevens, who can afford a courtside seat at an NBA Finals game, the entitlement runs much deeper.
I was talking with Warriors coach Steve Kerr recently, and I mentioned that I had heard him interviewed on Michael Lewis’ new podcast, “Against the Rules,” which is about Americans’ growing mistrust of the referees in business, politics, law — and yes, basketball.
“My favorite part was the thing about the research study,” Kerr said.
I knew what he was talking about. Lewis referenced a UC Berkeley study in which researchers observed a busy four-way intersection and graded the passing cars on their make, age and appearance. They found that 100% of drivers in the most beat-up category of cars dutifully stopped for a pedestrian (a confederate in the study), while 40% of most-expensive-car drivers barreled through the crosswalk.
That’s entitlement, quantified and documented.
I’ll bet Mark Stevens, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist, drives a really nice car. He may be a decent person in many ways. I tried calling his home, but got a family answering machine with a cute kid’s voice — a reminder that we’re talking about human beings here and there is no need for cheap shots. But what, other than entitlement, could lead a 59-year-old part-owner of the Warriors to engage physically and profanely with a likable player such as Kyle Lowry?