The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Maybe athlete family and friends could log off and enjoy the show. Quietly.

Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic after his altercation with Miami Heat forward Markieff Morris. (David Zalubowski/AP)

Nikola Jokic has brothers.

Even casual fans who don’t follow the league closely in November now know for certain that the reigning NBA MVP has two older brothers. They know this because his brothers woke up feeling particularly dangerous Tuesday morning and created a Twitter account for the sole purpose of making their presence known.

You see, their baby brother, who plays for the Denver Nuggets, and Miami Heat enforcer Markieff Morris got into a bit of a fracas at the end of their game Monday night. It started when Morris extended a forearm into Jokic’s ribs. A dirty play. Jokic retaliated by shoving Morris in the back, hard. An even dirtier play.

This back-and-forth of who can throw the most egregious cheap shot should’ve ended there on the Ball Arena floor in Denver and inside the NBA league office, where Jokic was issued a one-game suspension and Morris was fined $50,000.

But lucky for us, both Jokic and Morris have brothers.

Nuggets star Nikola Jokic suspended one game for ‘forcefully shoving’ Heat’s Markieff Morris

Marcus Morris — Markieff’s identical twin, who plays for the Los Angeles Clippers — tweeted a subtle threat that he would avenge his family. Then either Strahinja or Nemanja Jokic logged onto their new, shared social media account and wolfed back at Marcus. It was petty and silly and yet so much fun.

We gawkers might tee-hee at the trash talk and eat up every morsel of these social media meltdowns, but the real stars of the family probably wish their family members would stay on the sidelines.

Brothers. Parents. Wives. Might do them good to have a seat. Maybe a couple of those expensive ones courtside or inside NFL stadium luxury suites. Just about any seat will do — as long as they stay calm and don’t overstep boundaries when it comes to the supremely athletic relative whose last names they share. Apparently, enjoying the good seats and riding their loved one’s jersey tails are not enough, because family members keep imposing.

When his wide receiver son wasn’t getting along with his co-worker, Odell Beckham Sr. chimed in by amplifying an 11-minute video of all the times quarterback Baker Mayfield missed Junior during his underwhelming season. The next time OBS answers his son’s bat signal of distress, though, he may want to flip the exculpatory video so that viewers don’t have to watch it sideways.

Mayfield, too, has a someone in his life who needs to chill. Whenever she feels that Cleveland Browns fans aren’t appreciating her husband, Emily Mayfield goes to Instagram in his defense. She once called out “fair weather fans” because how dare someone criticize her husband when he throws three interceptions one week and cheer him the next time out when he hits his targets.

At least Jackson Mahomes doesn’t spend his spare time clapping back at his brother Patrick’s fans on social media. He would rather dance on TikTok — and right on top of the Sean Taylor logo that was painted at FedEx Field to honor the former Washington player on the day of his jersey number retirement.

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There are other instances of family meddling. William Rondo, brother of Rajon, heckled Russell Westbrook and got ejected from an NBA playoff game in the bubble; Clinton Portis’s mom punched out a Philadelphia Eagles fan in 2006; even NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s wife assumed a Twitter alias to defend her man. During a heated playoff game in 2008, LeBron James once became so incensed by his mother getting up from her seat and swooping into a baseline kerfuffle that he told her to sit her, ahem, down.

We get it. They love their relatives who have made it big and achieved name recognition in their chosen sport. They’re proud and want to protect them. It’s only a natural instinct to step in as game-film editor, fan club president or big-brother bodyguard when they feel critics are coming for their family.

This kind of loyalty, however, does not help their well-known kinfolk.

Once overly protective (or wannabe-famous) family members get involved, the spotlight shifts to the wrong person.

No one goes to an Adele concert to hear her background singers, and not a single Nuggets fan who owns a Jokic jersey wears it because they’re rooting on his two older siblings. Without their baby bro, Strahinja and Nemanja are just two very tall, very tatted-up dudes from Serbia. Jackson doesn’t get 996,000 followers on TikTok without the benefit of using big brother Patrick’s workplace as the backdrop for his dance moves.

And while family feuds serve up delicious Twitter beef for the rest of us to devour, it’s a bad look for the one who actually made their last name popular.

Would it be too much of a leap for a Browns fan to think that private conversations between husband and wife became public posts on Emily’s social media? And what exactly did Senior think he was accomplishing on OBJ’s behalf? He only made his son look like the passive-aggressive mastermind behind the #FreeOBJ movement, someone so manipulative that he marshaled his friends and family to demand a change of scenery instead of speaking up himself.

The sidelines are littered with family members who think they are defending their loved one or trying to go viral on their own. LeBron’s advice for family still applies: They should sit their behinds down.