NBA fines Russell Westbrook for threatening Utah Jazz fan, fan’s wife

by Samuel Abasi Posted on March 12th, 2019

Oklahoma City Thunder star Russell Westbrook has been fined $25,000 for “directing profanity and threatening language to a fan,” the NBA announced Tuesday afternoon.

The incident occurred during Monday night’s game between the Thunder and Jazz in Utah. The league announced the fine just minutes after the Jazz announced that the fan is banned from attending all future events at Vivint Smart Home Arena.

In video shared on social media by a Deseret News reporter during the game, Westbrook, standing at the Thunder bench, can be heard shouting at the fan, who was sitting courtside.

“I promise you. You think I’m playing?” he says. “I swear to God. I swear to God. I’ll (expletive) you up. You and your wife. I’ll (expletive) you up.”

Before addressing the fan, Westbrook appears to speak with an arena official. He points in the fan’s direction, saying, “I’m going to tell you one thing. I’ll (expletive) him up.”

Westbrook then turns and yells to the fan.

“I promise you. You think I’m playing?” he says. “I swear to God. I swear to God. I’ll (expletive) you up. You and your wife. I’ll (expletive) you up.”

Westbrook briefly turns his attention to the action on the court before addressing the fan once more.

“I promise you,” he repeats. “On everything I love. Everything I love.”

Westbrook addressed the confrontation with reporters after the game.

“How it started was, a young man and his wife in the stands told me ‘to get down on your knees like you used to.’ To me, that’s just completely disrespectful. I think it’s racial, and I think it’s inappropriate in the sense that there’s no protection for the players.

“I think there a lot of great fans that like to come to the game and enjoy the game. And then there are people that come to the game to say disrespectful things about me, my family.”

“That’s just one video, but throughout the game, since I’ve been here, especially here in Utah, every time I come here there’s a lot of disrespectful things that’s said,” Westbrook added. “For me, I’m just not going to continue to take the disrespect for my family.”

Salt Lake City’s KSL5TV later identified the fan as Shane Keisel, who spoke to the station’s reporter about the incident. Keisel said he mentioned Westbrook icing his knees.

“It was when Joe (Ingles) had come by and poked Paul George in the eye, and then Joe goes over and apologizes immediately,” Keisel said. “Russ is just F-bombing and carrying on, acting a fool down here, and everybody’s getting on him.”

“I never said a swear word to him,” Keisel continued. “Everybody in the vicinity will say it. And she never left her seat, never said a word, hands in her lap. Never said a single swear word to him, not one. Initially I was like, ‘Oh, I’m talking with Westbrook. The guy’s one of the greats.’ But he’s also classless.”

It was unclear at what point during the game the incident occurred, but it overshadowed Westbrook’s night on the court. He finished with 23 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists to lead the Thunder to a 98-89 win.

Thunder teammate Raymond Felton was nearby on the bench and backed up Westbrook’s account of being taunted.

“He’s not coming off and talking to the fans, just saying stuff to them,” 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 they want to us during games and yell out stuff and talk about our families and talk about our kids.”

The Jazz issued a statement later that said the team is “continuing to investigate the unfortunate exchange between Russell Westbrook and fans. Multiple warning cards were issued by arena security. Players and fans have a shared responsibility to create a safe and respectful environment. If it is determined that any fans violated the NBA Code of Conduct appropriate action will be taken.”

Jazz star Donovan Mitchell weighed in on the incident Tuesday afternoon, tweeting that he is “personally hurt” by what happened.

“As a black man living in a community I love, and playing on a team that gives me the opportunity to live out my dreams, this incident hits close to home,” he said. “Racism and hate speech hurts us all, and this is not the first time something like this has happened in our arena. The Utah that I have come to love is welcoming and inclusive and last night’s incident is not indicative of our fanbase.”

Mitchell added that he’s going to “work with the team, my teammates and the league to help make our arenas and our communities more inclusive and welcoming. That includes bans on hate speech and racism”

Monday night’s incident was not the first between Westbrook and fans in Utah. He had a pair of confrontations during last year’s first-round playoff series between the Thunder and Jazz.

During Game 6 of the series, Westbrook was walking off the court at halftime when a fan leaned over a railing to shout at him. Westbrook turned toward the fan and appeared to yell, “Back the (expletive) up” before security intervened.

After that game, which the Thunder lost, ending their season, Westbrook took a swipe in the direction of a fan who appeared to be recording the Oklahoma City star on his phone as he exited for the locker room.

“I don’t confront fans, fans confront me,” Westbrook said after the playoff game. “Here in Utah, man, a lot of disrespectful, vulgar things are said to the players here with these fans. It’s truly disrespectful. (They) talk about your families, your kids. It’s just a disrespect to the game and I think it’s something that needs to be brought up.

“I’m tired of just going out and playing and letting fans say what the hell they want to say. I’m not with that. If I was on the street, they wouldn’t just come up to me and say anything crazy, because I don’t play that (expletive).”

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