Whatever the result of the game or the series, tonight’s National Basketball League of Canada playoff contest at Mile One Centre will mark the last appearance of the season at Mile One Centre by the London Lightning and their top scorer, Royce White.
Which will make any interaction between St. John’s Edge fans and the Lightning — and specifically White — deserving particular attention, given fans and White have now accused each other other of misbehaviour.
White was at the centre of a league investigation earlier this week after a number of fans accused the league scoring leader of having swore and launched homophobic slurs at people seated near the London bench during Saturday’s Game 3 of the Central Division final between the Edge and Lightning at Mile One.
E-mails from at least two fans detailing their versions of the incident were received by NBL Canada. However, without mentioning White specifically, the league said after investigating — including reviewing statements from game officials and security personnel — it could not find any substantive proof of what had occurred. NBL Canada deputy commissioner Audley Stephenson called it a “he said, she said” situation, and as a result, the league would not act on it further.
However, the issue has not disappeared on social media, with a number of people reiterating what they saw as an uncalled for tirade by White, and at least one confirming the same directly to The Telegram, but wanting to remain anonymous.
Now, White is accusing Mile One fans of directing “disability slurs” in his direction.
“I unequivocally deny any allegations of homophobic slurs …” said White in a statement posted on the Lightning’s Twitter site Wednesday.
He went on to claim he had been harassed by fans near the London bench during Saturday’s game and had responded to “a number of disability slurs,” making reference to “comments that condemn or make fun of mental health conditions.”
White, a former NBA first-round draft pick, has been public about having been diagnosed with generalized anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorders, which reportedly contributed to a fear of flying, although he has said his aversion to airplanes has been overblown. (In his statement, he said his exchange with the fans Saturday included him saying “I got here this morning on a plane …”).
Later in the statement, he referred to “inebriated fans” and called for administration of “a rule of no direct dialogue between courtside fans and opposing players.”
White’s statement followed another from the Lightning organization saying it agreed with the results of the NBL Canada investigation.
Edge director of operations Trevor Murphy told The Telegram his team did not believe fans had acted inappropriately, However, prior to Monday’s Game 4 — and before White issued his statement — Murphy announced the Edge were moving a number of courtside seats away from the Lightning bench and were posting security personnel in the area for the extent of the remaing games of the s=series at Mile One.
The best-of-seven divisional finalis tied 2-2 heading into tonight's contest, with Game 6 and, if necessary, Game 7 to be played in London.