Four courtside fans -- at least one of whom was not covering her face with a mask -- were ejected from Monday's game between the Los Angeles Lakers and Atlanta Hawks following a verbal spat with Lakers star LeBron James, the Hawks confirmed to ESPN.
Juliana Carlos, who later posted on social media, and her husband, Chris Carlos, exchanged words with James in the fourth quarter of the visiting Lakers' 107-99 win, prompting the ejection.
Juliana Carlos posted a video on her Instagram account showing the scene shortly after State Farm Arena security personnel and one of the referees, Mitchell Ervin, intervened.
She can be heard saying, "Shut the f--- up. Don't talk to my husband like that," while standing on the sideline with her mask pulled down below her chin. Someone off camera can be heard asking her to put her mask on, which is required of all fans attending NBA games this season. She wrote "f---ing loser" in a text box to accompany the video, with her camera pointed at James.
After the ejection, Carlos posted a selfie-style video, offering her account of what happened.
"So, I'm minding my own business, and Chris has been a Hawks fan forever. He's been watching the games for 10 years. Whatever, he has this issue with LeBron. I don't have an issue with LeBron. I don't give a f--- about LeBron," she says in the video. "Anyway, I'm minding my own business, drinking my [beverage], 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 f---ing talk to my husband.' And he looks at me and he goes, 'Sit the f--- down, b----.' And I go, 'Don't f---ing call me a b----. You sit the f--- down. Get the f--- out of here. Don't f---ing talk to my husband like that.'"
James was not asked postgame about Carlos' name-calling allegation, but he was not fazed by the incident and said he felt like an ejection was unnecessary.
"At the end of the day, I'm happy fans are back in the building," he said after putting up 21 points, 9 assists and 7 rebounds to help L.A. to the road win. "I miss that interaction. I need that interaction; we as players need that interaction. I don't feel like it was warranted to be kicked out."
He did say that alcohol could have been a factor, however.
"They might have had a couple drinks, maybe," he said. "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 said that Chris Carlos went "out of bounds" with whatever he directed at him. "I guess [Carlos] said something that rubbed the big dawg the wrong way," added Lakers center Montrezl Harrell.
While James said he was not close enough to the fans to be potentially compromised by Juliana Carlos removing her mask, other members of the Lakers found it unacceptable.
"It certainly exposed something with regard to having fans in the pandemic," Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. "You obviously can't have fans taking their masks down and shouting at our players with the virus out there during these times."
"With COVID going on, we obviously can't have that," L.A. big man Anthony Davis echoed. "We want to make sure we all can be safe."
James later tweeted about Carlos, bestowing her with a derisive nickname commonly used to mock entitled white women.
The Hawks opened an investigation into the incident, and there will be no ban included in the discipline as a result, a league source told ESPN on Tuesday.
Carlos issued a statement Tuesday on Instagram in which she apologized "for losing my cool and removing my mask in the heat of the moment."
"What should have been a quick back-and-forth between two adults got out of hand and my natural instinct to stand up for the man I love kicked in," Carlos said in an Instagram post. "Did I get defensive when that happened? Yes. Did I use offensive language when I could have taken the higher road? Yes. And for these things, I take full responsibility."
The Hawks are one of nine NBA teams currently allowing fans to attend their home games. Atlanta's State Farm Arena currently allows up to 8% of its capacity for Hawks games, according to a team official. Monday's announced attendance was 1,341.
Despite the episode, several Lakers still supported fans coming to their games.
"We love having fans at the game. Whether we're home or away, it just brings back the game that we love, that joy from the fans and the support," Davis said. "Whether it's 500 people or 1,000, 1,500, whatever it is, it's always enjoyable to play in front of a crowd."
"I love our fans," James reiterated. "Laker Nation and everybody else that's against Laker Nation. It just feels better. Fans in the stands is just -- it's just better. It's better for everybody -- especially on the last game of a 14-day road trip."