Joel Embiid’ s plea for Philadelphia fans to be better is problematic

NBA: APR 09 76ers at Pelicans
NEW ORLEANS, LA – APR 09: New Orleans Pelicans center Willy Hernangomez (9) fouls Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21) during a NBA game between the New Orleans Pelicans and the Philadelphia 76ers at Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, LA on Apr 09, 2021. (Photo by Stephen Lew/Icon Sportswire)

Another day, another Ben Simmons rumor that has Sixers fans up in arms. After a rogue report today highlighting the state of the fracture between Joel Embiid and his Aussie teammate, the superstar center rushed to his rescue, downplaying the notion that there’s any friction, and taking things one step further.

It’s easy to see why Embiid would feel this way. The man is absolutely right in everything he’s saying as someone that has lived through some scintillating highs and tragic lows…everything but the fact that that the fans themselves need to be better.

It’s such an overplayed stereotype that the Philadelphia fanbase is a vicious one. An unrelenting group of die-yards who are unashamedly passionate and still paying for the sins of ‘Snowballs at Santa’. Unfortunately, there’s no escaping a past of questionable fan moments and incidents like throwing popcorn at Russell Westbrook hardly does much to show that those stereotypes are just that. However, Sixers fans, more than any, are more than willing to go above and beyond to support their team.

From the cheers Markelle Fultz felt on his debut after what an only be described as a horror show in the months preceding it, to the endless support for Ben Simmons and Embiid himself through heartbreaking injuries, and helping the team pick themselves up after some gut wrenching moments.

Without Sixers fans supporting through years of Sam Hinkie’s rebuild, there would be no ‘Trust the Process’ chants in the first place. Embiid’s own nickname came from a unified cry to remain sane from fans who watched their team embark down a path in which it was stripped to its bare bones with no end in sight. Something to shout in half-filled arenas where other markets would’ve looked closer to a summer league crowd.

Philadelphia fans are tough, sure, but the notion that this only happens in Philadelphia is ridiculous. The idea that Philadelphia fans ‘need to be better’ for holding their teams accountable is just as bad. Embiid himself is a big soccer fan, specifically Real Madrid. While Madrid’s fans aren’t used to failure, he’s made it public knowledge that he follows the Premier League, plays FIFA, and generally understands the culture.

Has he not seen what happens to a player who misses a penalty kick? The release of anguish of when a team gets relegated? Fans making comically abusive chants for a team that promised everything and delivered nothing? This is one example, but even within the the USA, larger markets endure the same. We’ve seen the Mets recently endure a back-and-forth with their fans, while in the NBA, booing is simply a part of the job if you’re playing for a team that is at the epicenter of the city’s culture.

The Ben Simmons situation is a unique one. For the most part, fans have given every ounce of support they have, cheering the defensive monster on whenever he gets to the free-throw line, trying to encourage him in those tight spots. But ultimately, he and the team squandered what was their best opportunity at an NBA title in well over a decade. Fans had every right to boo and vent their frustrations.

At the end of the day, the fans are the ones buying tickets, jerseys, bobble heads, and supporting the franchise that players work for. As far as consuming what the media puts out, that’s more on the writers and parties in the know than it is an innocent reader trying to learn more about their favorite team after a day at school. To go after fans for that reason is very bizarre.

It’s not that Philadelphia fans need to be better, it’s that there needs to be a greater sense of transparency in issues like this. A statement from Embiid a week earlier could’ve dissolved a lot of the anxiety surrounding the team at this time. It’s not that fans need to avoid booing players, it’s that the players should be in-tune enough with the fans to understand that if they are booing, it’s simply because they’re not happy with the product being thrown in front of them. Nothing more, nothing less.

Photo by Stephen Lew/Icon Sportswire