The Cleveland Cavaliers identified and indefinitely banned a fan who shouted racially tinged taunts at Spurs guard Patty Mills earlier this week, according to multiple reports. A team spokesman told ESPN.com and Cleveland.com that the fan had been identified, and that his ban from Quicken Loans Arena won’t be reviewed for at least a year.
Mills was shooting free throws with less than three minutes left in the Spurs’ win over Cleveland on Sunday, when a fan could be heard yelling, “Hey, Jamaica called; they want their bobsledder back. Hey, Mills, Jamaica just called; they want their bobsledder back!”
The veteran point guard, whose parents are members of indigenous populations in Australia, later spoke out about the incident, calling it an example of how “racism still does exist in sports today.”
After a Twitter user posted video of the episode, Mills referred to his heritage on his father’s side as a Torres Strait Islander, saying that he and his “family in the islands of the Torres Strait have experienced racial slurs for decades.” He added, “Hope your efforts will enlighten this confused, hateful fan.”
Cavaliers officials promised they would attempt to identify the fan, with the team’s security staffers using a variety of resources to zero in on the offender, according to Cleveland.com.
Earlier in the week, Mills helped host a Black History Month event at the San Antonio Museum of Art, where he offered more thoughts on the taunts.
“I think it’s fair to say that I’ve been called a lot worse,” Mills said (via KSAT). “But it was a small example to shine a little bit of light on the fact that racism still does exist in sports today. We as a whole can do a lot more to be in a situation like this today, and help educate the kids to be able to be proud of who they are and where they come from, and have the feeling inside to be able to express all of that.”
A potentially much happier development emerged for the Spurs on Monday with a report that their star player, Kawhi Leonard, planned to practice with the team this week. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Leonard, whose quadriceps injury has limited him to just nine games this season, and none at all since mid-January, hopes to return to games in late March.
San Antonio Coach Gregg Popovich had caused a stir last week when he said he would be “surprised” if Leonard was back in action this year, which came amid rumors of a rift between the soft-spoken player and the team with which he has won two NBA defensive player of the year awards and twice finished in the top three in MVP voting. Wojnarowski cited league sources Monday in reporting that the “injury, rehabilitation and timetable for a return has played a part in … causing a fraying of what had long seemed to be a model partnership.”
For Mills’s part, he expressed pride in having become not just “a role model for indigenous Australians” but for “kids, for blacks, Hispanics and minorities throughout San Antonio.” Of the racial taunting, he told KSAT, “It’s being able to educate kids to understand how to properly handle these types of situations, shine light on it, overcome it, take the high road, be proud of who you are and stand strong for who you are.”
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