NBA arenas are more susceptible to on-court protests and interruptions, expert says

Timberwolves protestor
MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE - APRIL 16: A activist chains herself to the goal during the first half of Game One of the Western Conference First Round between the Memphis Grizzlies and the Minnesota Timberwolves at FedExForum on April 16, 2022 in Memphis, Tennessee Photo credit Justin Ford/Getty Images

Dan Donovan has worked in stadium security consulting for 25 years and even he was surprised at how the last two Timberwolves games have been interrupted by protestors.

“I don’t know that we’ve seen this,” said Donovan, founder of the stadium security consulting firm Stratoscope which most recently helped coordinate security for the Women’s Final Four in Minneapolis, “where people are trying to attach themselves to the court or the (basket) as these two individuals did.”

Last week, the Minnesota Timberwolves’ play-in game against the Los Angeles Clippers at Target Center was stopped midway through the second quarter after animal rights activist Alicia Santurio glued her hand to the court. Santurio was wearing a "Glen Taylor Roasts Animals Alive" shirt, protesting the Timberwolves’ owner’s egg factory farm Rembert Enterprises, which recently killed several million birds that were infected with the Avian flu.

Then in Minnesota’s first round playoff series against the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday, another protestor wearing the same shirt chained herself to the basket at the FedExForum in Memphis, briefly stopping the game before she was carried out of the arena.

While Donovan is surprised at the unique actions the protestors took, he was not surprised that it happened.

“With all the other leagues you have natural barriers (to keep fans out), and with NBA arenas, you don’t,'' Donovan said. “Largely because you sell those seats at a premium to have access to that level of proximity to what’s going on on the court. The trade off for that revenue is a little increased risk because unknown people, frankly, can get right down to the court.”

The Timberwolves have experienced it twice over the last week. While Donovan is not affiliated with either Target Center or FedExForum, he expects there will be heightened awareness to protestors over the rest of the series and throughout the NBA playoffs now that a pattern has been set.

Donovan, who has consulted for several NBA teams such as the Milwaukee Bucks and Golden State Warriors, says it’s common for the NBA to alert arenas throughout the league with details about certain protests to make sure they are ready if it happens at their arena.

“The NBA does a phenomenal job sharing that type of intel when they have an incident like they did in Minneapolis and Memphis,” Donovan said. “Things like this happen and thankfully this wasn’t a violent issue. I’m sure courtside security will be heightened to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

Featured Image Photo Credit: Justin Ford/Getty Images