This story has been updated with comments from players and coaches.
UPDATED at 5:07 p.m. with statement from Stevens.
OAKLAND — Hours after the Golden State Warriors banned Mark Stevens, one of a group of over 25 investors in the Warriors, from the rest of the NBA Finals, the NBA itself handed down its ruling on Stevens’ altercation with Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry.
After shoving Lowry after he fell out of bounds and into courtside seats on Wednesday night, Stevens — a venture capitalist and billionaire who took over Vivek Ranadive’s minority ownership share of the Warriors in 2013 — will no longer be allowed to attend Finals games, will be banned from team activiites for a year and will be fined $500,000.
“Mr. Stevens’ behavior last night did not reflect the high standards that we hope to exemplify as an organization,” the Warriors said in a statement on Thursday morning. “We’re extremely disappointed in his actions and, along with Mr. Stevens, offer our sincere apology to Kyle Lowry and the Toronto Raptors organization for this unfortunate misconduct.”
With just over 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter of Wednesday’s Game 3, Lowry leaped into the seats to save a loose ball, colliding with two fans in the front row, and knocking one back. As he tried to stand up, two seats over, Stevens placed a hand on Lowry’s left shoulder and shoved him.
Lowry revealed at media availability on Thursday afternoon that Stevens said, “Go f*** yourself” multiple times.
Lowry got up, glared at Stevens and beckoned to referee Marc Davis, who listened, but took no action. Moments later, Golden State ejected Stevens.
“There’s no place for that,” Lowry said in the postgame press conference. “He had no reason to touch me. He had no reason to reach over two seats and then say some vulgar language to me. There’s no place for people like that in our league, and hopefully he never comes back to an NBA game.”
Before the ban and fine had been handed down by the NBA on Thursday afternoon, Lowry said that kind of behavior didn’t belong in the league, implying Stevens should be divested of his ownership stake. Fans have been calling for the same. Dylan Byers of NBC has reported that Stevens will he asked to sell his team shares before next season.
“He’s not a good look for the ownership group that they have,” Lowry said. “And I know Joe Lacob. Those guys are great guys. The ownership that they have that I know, they’re unbelievable guys. But a guy like that, showing his true class, and he shouldn’t be a part of our league. There’s just no place for that.”
LeBron James wrote on Instagram, “There’s absolutely no place in our BEAUTIFUL game for that AT ALL. There’s so many issues here. When you sit courtside you absolutely know what comes with being on the floor and if you don’t know it’s on the back on the ticket itself that states the guidelines. But he himself being a fan but more importantly PART-OWNER of the Warriors knew exactly what he was doing which was so uncalled for. He knew the rules more than just the average person sitting watching the game courtside so for that Something needs to be done ASAP! A swift action for his actions.”
“The one thing about Bron, he’s always been an activist,” Lowry said. “He’s always been unbelievable with this. I sent the text, a message to him. He sent one back. I thanked him because he’s one of the biggest athletes and most vocal guys that we have out there. His social activism has been amazing. And he sticks up for his fellow players.”
Multiple players at Thursday’s media availability expressed concern about player safety in the kind of encounter that occurred between Lowry and Stevens.
“Players being protected is of everybody’s utmost concern,” said Raptors head coach Nick Nurse. “It didn’t escalate from his standpoint so he deserves some credit for that. I’m disappointed when there’s fans yelling at players, getting personal, any of that stuff, either physically or verbally.”
DeMarcus Cousins called the altercation “unacceptable.” Draymond Green went a step further, pointing to the Detroit Pistons-Indiana Pacers brawl that spilled into the stands at the Palace of Auburn Hills in November of 2004 — the Malice at the Palace — as the start of the current state of crowd-player interactions. He praised what commissioner Adam Silver has done in terms of protecting players, but maintained that there is still an element of danger. Placcards posted in the arena and cards handed out to courtside patrons expressly forbid abusive language and fighting, and entering the court, but do not explicitly forbid making physical contact with players.
“I think players are definitely vulnerable,” Green said. “Any time you’re in a situation where you can do no right, like in defending yourself, you’re vulnerable. So if a fan says whatever they want to you and then you say something back, you’re fined. If Kyle was to then hit back, a lot more than a fine would have then happened to Kyle.
“In a situation where you’re essentially helpless, you’re always going to be vulnerable in anything in life. So it’s not just on the basketball court. In any situation you can’t help yourself, you’re vulnerable.”
Both Stephen Curry and Green praised Lowry’s restraint in the situation. Green went on to say that owners should be held to a higher standard if they sit courtside.
“I think you have to be,” Green said. “When you’re speaking of players, we are held to a different standard. Coaches are held to — anybody in the NBA circle, you’re held to a different standard. So I think it’s no different when you start talking of anybody in any ownership group in the league. You’re held to a different standard. You can say it’s unfair or not, like whatever your opinion is on it, whether you’re one way or the other, that’s just the reality of it. We’re all held to a different standard, and that’s not going to change.”
Golden State head coach Steve Kerr did not see the incident — only the commotion afterwards — and said he’d let the team’s statement speak for itself. However, he also said that he would personally apologize to Lowry and the Raptors.
“It was pretty clear who was in the wrong,” Curry said.
In a statement released early Thursday evening, Stevens accepted responsibility for his actions, saying he was “embarrassed” by what transpired and accepted the punishment meted out by the Warriors and the NBA.
“What I did was wrong and there is no excuse for it,” Stevens said. “Mr. Lowry deserves better, and I have reached out today in an attempt to directly apologize to him and other members of the Raptors and Warriors organizations. I’m grateful to those who accepted my calls. I hope that Mr. Lowry and others impacted by this lapse in judgement understand that the behavior I demonstrated last night does not reflect the person I am or have been throughout my life. I made a mistake and I’m truly sorry. I need to be better and look forward to making it right.”
A Silicon Valley venture capitalist, Stevens is estimated to be worth $2.3 billion by Forbes. From 1989 to 2012, after stints at Intel and Hughes Aircraft, he was a partner at Sequoia Capital, a firm that backed Apple, Cisco, Google and Yahoo. He then started his own firm, S-Cubed. He currently serves on the board of semiconductor firm Nvidia in San Jose, and on the University of Southern California’s board of trustees. He and his wife Mary have donated more than $100 million to USC, his alma mater. He is part of a Warriors ownership group that is north of 25 investors.