Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal is under investigation by police in Orlando, Florida after a confrontation with a fan stemming from a gambling loss, according to police reports obtained by ESPN. The NBA issued a statement saying, "We are aware of the report and in the process of gathering more information."
The incident occurred inside Amway Center following the Wizards' loss to the Orlando Magic on March 21. As Beal and the Wizards were walking toward the locker room, the reports indicate that a fan yelled at Beal: "You made me lose $1,300, you f---." Beal then turned and walked back towards the fan, and took a swipe at his friend, knocking the friend's hat off in the process.
Per the reports, "probable cause exists to charge Beal with simple battery," though no charges have been filed as of Tuesday morning. Neither Beal nor the Wizards have offered a comment on the matter.
Beal's agent released a statement to Marc Spears on Wednesday:
"Brad is one of the NBA's classiest and outstanding citizens who's held in the greatest respect by everyone who knows him. It has been incredibly disappointing to me that someone of Brad's character has been dragged into something because of the fact that we allow a growing number of fans to be so abusive in their language toward players. The comments and words that were spewed at Brad in Orlando have no place anywhere in our society. For him to be subject to that type of verbal abuse is absolutely unacceptable. I believe that league is going to have to take a much closer look as to what is happening in NBA arenas to protect the players and I know that where we have advanced with gambling is certainly having a huge impact on this behavior!"
Though sports betting is not legal in Florida, where the event took place, the practice has been legalized in 33 states in recent years. As a result, there have been an increasing number of confrontations between gamblers and players over lost bets, though most have happened online.
Earlier this month, Charlotte Hornets guard Terry Rozier was threatened by a fan on Instagram, who threatened to knock him out when the team came to Philadelphia. Rozier responded in kind. Phoenix Suns star Kevin Durant, meanwhile, recently joked about the power he has to ruin bettors' parlays.
Dallas Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving lamented the proliferation of gambling, saying it has "completely taken the purity and the fun away from the game at times" on one of his recent Twitch streams. Irving voiced his frustrations on the topic in an extended monologue, which reads, in part:
"There's a difference between being a diehard fan and supporting your team and loving your team versus somebody that's betting on a parlay. ... Don't get me wrong. I don't want anybody wasting their money on me. But goddang this whole community of gamblers has come into the game of basketball.
"I'm just gonna call it out. Everybody be talking about their f---ing ticket. I'm not gonna say I don't care about your ticket, but if you want to gamble, why don't you gamble on something that makes sense, to you? And if you gamble on me, I'm not going to tell you whether it's a good gamble or bagging, I'm just saying you're gambling. You're gonna win or lose.
"But that doesn't mean sliding into people's DMs or wishing bad on them or doing the extra s--- that goes on. It blows my mind sometimes. ... Because me as a hooper, I'm just trying to get a bucket. I'm trying to win ballgames most importantly, and I'm gonna be successful some nights and I'm gonna fail but overall the reason why I said peace of mind is everything. Just look at these distractions that ultimately take away from the game.
"I'm just saying it's tainting the game."
Irving's thoughts are surely shared by many players around the league, and as the incident involving Beal shows, this issue might only become more prevalent as more and more states make sports betting legal.