Please Do Not Hit Britney Spears For Touching The Shoulder Of Victor Wembanyama
9:01 AM EDT on July 7, 2023
The Director of Team Security for the San Antonio Spurs reportedly backhanded Britney Spears across the face in Las Vegas Wednesday night. This was not one of those boozy what-happens-in-Vegas type deals: The Spurs honcho, a man named Damian Smith, was part of a security entourage guiding gigantic French wonderteen Victor Wembanyama into a busy restaurant when Spears approached the group to ask Wembanyama for a photo; when Spears, who is 5-foot-4, made contact with Wembanyama, who is 7-foot-5, Smith immediately struck, knocking Spears's glasses from her face.
This basic outline of the encounter is agreed upon by all parties, but the specifics are subject to some dispute. Wembanyama, speaking from a practice court Thursday, said he was being rushed by his security team into Catch, a fancy seafood restaurant run by a hospitality group part-owned by Houston Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta, when a person "grabbed [him] from behind." Someone from his security team then "pushed her away," but because Wembanyama had been instructed not to stop for any reason he didn't turn around to see what happened, so he didn't know just how much force had been used and was unaware that the person who'd been intercepted was one of the handful of most famous people on the planet. It was only the following morning when Wembanyama learned that his overeager security person had roughed up Britney actual Spears.
Spears, who by all accounts handled being karate chopped by a large man protecting an even larger man with grace and dignity, insists that she did nothing more provocative than tap Wembanyama somewhere near his lofty right shoulder. She claims that Smith, without taking a second to assess the situation, immediately backhanded her across the face, in front of onlookers in a crowded restaurant. Where you or I might reasonably lose our minds under such circumstances, Spears reportedly returned calmly to her own table in the restaurant, where TMZ reports that she was later approached by an apologetic Smith.
Spears filed a police report, and Las Vegas police told the Los Angeles Times that they'd opened a battery investigation. A police source told TMZ that security footage seemed to show Smith's hand propelling Spears's own hand into her face, albeit with what must've been a pretty significant amount of force.
Wembanyama will play in a Summer League game Friday night, his first official contest of any sort as a member of the Spurs, who selected him with the first overall draft pick back in June. Normally only depraved hoops weirdos watch the various summer leagues, but Wembanyama is a phenom and an international star—the will-he-or-won't-he drama ahead of Wembanyama's eventual non-participation in Sacramento's summer league made it all the way into British tabloids, quite possibly the first time that anyone outside the United States has been made aware of the existence of California's pluckiest Gomorrah. The debut of a potentially transformative talent counts as a relatively big deal, even among casual sports fans, even set amidst the bozo vibes of summer exhibition season.
The Spurs haven't had a player of Wembanyama's basketball pedigree since Tim Duncan retired, and haven't rostered a player with this level of global hype in their entire existence. Maybe Smith and his security operation are just, uhh, really out of practice at managing players who anyone on earth might want to ask for a photograph? My very sensible body-guarding advice for future Wembanyama encounters is to take one split second to make sure the person you're about to club over the head unnecessarily is not an unarmed 5-foot-4, 41-year-old woman. My very sensible PR advice is to take the additional step of making sure that she is not also one of the most beloved and recognizable entertainers on the planet.