October 12, 2021
The empty arenas and stadiums seen during the coronavirus pandemic will forever be a reminder that attending live sports events is a privilege.
The electricity at the Wells Fargo Center for last season's Sixers' playoff run — Game 7 elimination in the conference semifinals notwithstanding — was among the most joyous displays of the Philadelphia fanbase in action in recent memory.
But that playoff run had a notable blemish — namely, a fan dumping popcorn on Washington Wizards (and now Los Angeles Lakers) star Russell Westbrook. It was the kind of incident that gives all sports fans a bad name, but especially Philadelphia fans. The person who dumped popcorn on Westbrook has been banned indefinitely from the arena.
"To be completely honest, this s*** is getting out of hand, especially for me. The amount of disrespect, the amount of fans just doing whatever the f*** they want to do, it's just out of pocket," Westbrook said after the playoff game. "Any other setting – you know, I'm all for fans enjoying the game and having fun, it's part of sports, I get it. But there are certain things that cross the line."
As the Sixers and Flyers get ready to start their regular season slates, the Wells Fargo Center has updated its code of conduct to state explicitly what should be obvious to anybody who attends games. Violations of the rules could result in everything from an arena ban to criminal charges.
The code of conduct is nothing new, but the Wells Fargo Center is stressing its importance more proactively moving forward, an arena spokesperson explained Tuesday.
The initiative was spurred by the arena's event staff, who approached management about addressing the national trend of poor behavior during the pandemic, whether it's disrespectful treatment toward flight attendants, restaurant workers or security personnel.
To drive the point home, the Wells Fargo Center released a video with messages from Sixers and Flyers players explaining how fans are expected to interact with one another, the arena staff and the teams. The video will now play at the beginning of all home games, and signage detailing the code of conduct will be displayed prominently throughout the arena.
Below is the updated code of conduct at the Wells Fargo Center:
•Do not physically interfere with or inappropriately harass athletes or performers.
•Do not throw projectiles onto the playing surface or performance area (except in the event of a Flyers hat trick)
•Respect the arena and arena staff
•Follow direction from arena staff and treat them with respect.
•Do not damage the arena or property within the arena.
•Treat all other guests with respect and contribute to an environment of respect at the Wells Fargo Center.
•Do not use offensive language or gestures concerning a person's race, ethnicity, color, gender, religion, creed, ability, age, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression or national origin.
•Do not engage in any physical altercations or disruptive or inconsiderate behavior detrimental to the experience of other guests.
•Guests may report inappropriate behavior to the nearest usher, security staff member or other event personnel, or by texting 954-WFC-TEXT.
•All ticket holders are responsible for their conduct and the conduct of their guests and/or persons using their tickets.
•All guests must also comply with applicable NBA, NHL, NLL and promoter codes of conduct.
•Violations of this code of conduct or any applicable code of conduct may result in ejection, arrest by police and the filing of criminal charges, and/or revocation of season ticket package, parking privileges or other benefits.
•Guests may only sit in their ticketed seats and must present their tickets when requested.
Among the important points the Wells Fargo Center wants fans to understand is that the language they use matters, whether it's directed at a specific person or not. In the arena's "New Heights" series, which highlights diversity in Philadelphia's hockey community, some Flyers fans discuss how the use of slurs at games is hurtful even if they aren't personally targeted.
The arena spokesperson reiterated that fans are welcome to shout and boo to their hearts' content. The Wells Fargo Center does not want to take the passion out of Philadelphia sports. The more visible code of conduct is meant to show that respect is a core value of the fan experience, and that people can do better than what we've seen in years past.
The Flyers will open their 2021-22 season at home Friday against the Vancouver Canucks. The Sixers' home schedule begins Friday, Oct. 22, against the Brooklyn Nets.
In accordance with Philadelphia's current COVID-19 safety protocols, all fans and arena employees at the Wells Fargo Center will be required to wear face masks, except when eating and drinking. The arena will be at 100% capacity.
In addition to the new code of conduct, the Wells Fargo Center has made all in-arena and parking transactions cashless. Valid payment methods include all major credit cards and digital payment such as Apple Pay and Google Pay.