Brothers, Jermaine and Phil Ulinwa, accuse Damian Lillard of instigating a fight between themselves and Lillard’s entourage. The incident occurred at 2:30am on May 18th as Damian was heading toward a parking lot with several other people. Jermaine reportedly took Damian’s picture, which the brothers say provoked him and his crew.
“Damian Lillard basically instigated it, because he actually looked like he was going to try to go up to my brother and start fighting him, and since he did that the rest of the guys started getting riled up too and they thought it was ok to just start fighting out of nowhere.” – Phil Ulinwa
Jermaine and Phil both have facial contusions, but neither were hospitalized. The Portland Trail Blazers have been made aware of the incident, and Damian Lillard has been cleared as a suspect.
Now, whether or not things happened exactly as the brothers say is up for debate. I will neither damn them for embellishment, nor let Lillard off the hypothetical hook. However; the alleged assault does raise an interesting dialogue about player/fan interaction.
If the incident happened as reported, with the normally mild mannered Lillard becoming irate due to the snap of a cell phone, then it is probably an overreaction on his part. Although a 24/7 spotlight can be trying at times, a certain level of composure is expected of NBA athletes.
However; if the brothers neglected to mention any harassment, the story becomes quite different. Their behavior has not been publicly documented from Lillard’s perspective. It could be that Lillard requested not to be photographed, but instead was bombarded by their persistent fandom.
We do not know what was said by whom, or have the full context of the situation. Regardless, assault is not an acceptable response. There appears to have been an abuse of public celebrity by Damian or an abuse of believed invulnerability by the brothers; more likely still, a mixture of both.
In a perfect world, fans would understand the players’ needs for boundaries and respect, and the players would understand the fans’ needs for appreciation and tolerance. A picture is worth a thousand words and this photo has some pointed ones flying.