The NBA has fined Oklahoma City guard Russell Westbrook $25,000 for the language he directed toward a fan in Utah.
According to NBA media reports, early in the second quarter of Monday’s game between the Thunder and the Jazz, Westbrook stood up from the bench when he felt both the man and his wife directed a racial taunt at him. According to the Thunder guard, they told him to “get down on my knees like I used to.” After that, Westbrook was seen on video cursing at the man and his wife.
According to multiple reports, some of Westbrook’s comments were caught on video by another fan.
“I swear to god, I’ll [expletive] you up. You and your wife, I’ll [expletive] you up. Promise you on everything I love, I promise you,” Westbrook says to a fan on the video.
Meanwhile, the Jazz have banned the fan from all events at their arena permanently and effective immediately.
According to a statement released Tuesday by the team, “The organization conducted an investigation through video review and eyewitness accounts. The ban is based on excessive and derogatory verbal abuse directed at a player during the game that violated the NBA Code of Conduct.
“The Utah Jazz will not tolerate fans who act inappropriately. There is no place in our game for personal attacks or disrespect.”
“Everyone deserves the opportunity to enjoy and play the game in a safe, positive and inclusive environment,” Steve Starks, president of the Utah Jazz, said in the release. “Offensive and abusive behavior does not reflect the values of the Miller family, our organization and the community. We all have a responsibility to respect the game of basketball and, more importantly, each other as human beings. This has always been a hallmark of our incredible fan base and should forever be our standard moving forward.”
The fan, 45-year-old Shane Keisel, said in an ESPN interview that he did not swear or say anything inappropriate at Westbrook. He said that the exchange “started off as fun” with him yelling at Westbrook to “ice those knees up!” Keisel said Westbrook told him it was heat on his knees, to which Keisel hollered, “You’re going to need it.” Keisel also told ESPN that his companion, Jennifer Huff, did not participate in any of the exchange.
“He just went nuts,” Keisel told ESPN. “She never got up. She never stood up. She never said a word to him. I mean, it’s all fine, we’re having fun and games with the guy and we’re talking, but at the end of the day, no man should threaten a woman, period.”
Westbrook expressed concern following Monday’s game with the verbal abuse he and teammates have received from fans when the Thunder are on the road. Much of it has been directed at their families, he said, and he is no longer tolerating their disrespect.
“For me, I’m just not going to continue to take disrespect for my family,” said Westbrook after the game, according to ESPN’s Tim MacMahon. “I just think there’s got to be something done. There’s got to be some consequences for those type of people that come to the game just to say and do whatever they want to say. I don’t think it’s fair to the players — not just to me, but I don’t think it’s fair to the players.
“And if I had to do it again, I would say the same exact thing, because I truly will stand up for myself, for my family, for my kids, for my wife, for my mom, for my dad every single time. I expect anybody else to do the same. So that’s kind of where I’m at with the whole situation. As for beating up his wife, I have never put my hand on a woman; I never will. Never been in any domestic violence before. Never have before, but once he said the comment, his wife repeated the same thing to me as well. So that’s kind of how that started.”
Westbrook’s teammates came to his defense following the game. Raymond Felton, who did not play, sat near him on the bench when the altercation took place. Felton confirmed he also heard the taunts that had been directed at Westbrook.
“He’s not coming off and talking to the fans, just saying stuff to them and just blurting out words,” Felton said. “He’s not. They’re coming at him first. When is there going to be a point where there’s going to be protecting those players? People can say whatever what they want to say us during games and yell out stuff and talk about our families and talk about our kids.”
Jazz forward Thabo Sefolosha, who was Westbrook’s teammate in OKC from 2008-14, spoke in support of his former teammate Tuesday.
“I stand 100% with Russell Westbrook on what happened in yesterday’s game,” Sefolosha shared via Instagram. “I love our fans but there are limits that can not be crossed! Support and cheer for your team and enjoy the action but fans like Shane Keisel, who use that platform to spur (their) hateful and racist views need to be held accountable.”
Utah guard Donovan Mitchell also responded to the incident and the actions taken by both the Jazz and the NBA.
“I want to thank my team and the NBA for quickly responding to this hateful incident, and for helping to make our arena a place where all fans and players are welcome,” Mitchell said in his statement. “I join other players in calling for all teams to take a stand. We should not be subject to hate speech or racist acts at any time, and definitely not in our arenas.
“Over the coming months I will work with the team, my teammates and the league to help make our arenas and our communities more inclusive and welcoming,” he added. “That includes bans on hate speech and racism.
“I don’t have all the answers, but this off-season I will work through my foundation, SPIDACARES to take a closer look at race issues across this country to see what I can do to help combat against racial inequality. I am asking all of you to join me in this process because when we all stand up and speak up, change happens.”