Russell Westbrook got into it, again, with a pair of Jazz fans in the middle of Oklahoma City’s nine-point win over Utah on Monday. It’s the second time in as many years that Westbrook has had a run-in with fans in Utah, following a set of altercations with Jazz fans during a playoff game last season.
But this time was different. This time, the blowup had a racial undertone, with conflicting stories about what was said from each side. Now, the fan has been permanently banned from all events at Utah’s Vivint Smart Home Arena, and Westbrook has support from players across the league, including those on the Jazz roster.
During Monday’s game, video of Westbrook threatening to wash some Jazz fans surfaces on Twitter.
“I’ll f*ck you up,” the video catches Westbrook saying to what appears to be a pair of fans. “You and your wife.”
Things get heated between Russell Westbrook and Utah Jazz fans again. “I’ll f*ck you up. You and your wife,” he says. Not sure what these fans said to him, but he also had issues with Jazz fans during the postseason. pic.twitter.com/LquwRmLVNy— Eric Woodyard (@E_Woodyard) March 12, 2019
Pay close attention to the Thunder player who is closest to the action. That’s Patrick Patterson on OKC’s bench. This will be important later.
Twenty-three minutes after the video surfaced, Eric Woodyard of the Deseret News reported Utah’s staff issued five fans “warning cards” because their actions directed toward players were in violation of the NBA’s Fan Code of Conduct, which requires that guests “enjoy the basketball experience free from disruptive behavior, including foul or abusive language or obscene gestures.”
Five Utah Jazz fans received "warning cards" that their comments, gestures and/or behaviors directed at players were in violation of the NBA Fan Code of Conduct, but were able to return to their seats after their altercation with Russell Westbrook.— Eric Woodyard (@E_Woodyard) March 12, 2019
These were the fans who Westbrook appeared to be addressing.
Westbrook didn’t take any questions after the game. Instead, he addressed his altercation with the pair of Jazz fans. He said one told him to “get on your knees like you’re used to,” then said his wife repeated the same statement.
“The realization of it is a young man and his wife in the stands told me to get down on your knees like you’re used to. And for me that’s just completely disrespectful to me,” he says. “I think it’s racial. I think it’s just inappropriate in a sense of there’s no protection for the players. I think there are a lot of great fans around the world that like to come to the game and enjoy the game. Then there are people who come to the game to say mean, disrespectful things about me, my family.
“For many years, I’ve done all the right things. I’ve never done anything to hurt or harm anybody. I’ve never been in any trouble, never fought a fan. Been in the league 11 years, clean slate, humble. I’ll take all the criticism from everybody. I’ve been doing the same thing for years. But for me, disrespect will not be taken.
“Especially here in Utah. Every time I come here, it’s a lot of disrespectful things that’s said.”
Westbrook also addressed his comment that he would “f*ck up” the fan’s wife.
“As for beating up his wife, I’ve never put my hands on a women, never will, never been in any domestic violence, never have before,” he says. “But once he said the comment, his wife repeated it, the same thing to me, as well. That’s kind of how that started. I know you guys only saw the end of the video, but the start is what’s important and way more disrespectful than what you guys heard.”
The fan’s side of the story
After the game, Shane Keisel, the fan in question, spoke to Utah TV station KSL5 about his exchange with Westbrook. He says he told Westbrook to “sit down and ice your knees, bro.” Kiesel also swears he never said a curse word to Westbrook.
Shane Keisel, the Jazz fan who was involved in a verbal altercation with Russell Westbrook during the Jazz loss to the Thunder, explains his side of what happened. @KSL5TV @kslsports #nba pic.twitter.com/ScCSRttTCg— Jeremiah Jensen (@JJSportsBeat) March 12, 2019
“It was when Joe (Ingles) had come by and poked Paul George in the eye. And then Joe goes over and apologizes immediately, and then Russ is just f-bombing and carrying on and acting a fool down here, and everybody’s getting on him,” Keisel says. “Then he had, I guess, heat, I thought it was ice. So I just told him, ‘just sit down and ice your knees, bro.’ And he turned to me and is like, ‘That’s heat. That’s heat.’ And I’m like, ‘Well, you’re gonna need it.’ And then it turned into not safe for the work.”
Patrick Patterson had a front-row seat to the action, and he was disgusted by what he saw. He says here that the fan told Westbrook to “get down on your knees like you’re used to,” which is a serious left turn from “sit down and ice your knees, bro.” He also hints that comment wasn’t all that was said.
Fans can say shit about a mans family, wife, & kids.. Tell a player “Get down on your knees like your use to.” As men, what do you expect us to do? Shut up & dribble? No one is held accountable for their actions except for us. Fans are protected in every way possible but not us.— Patrick Patterson (@pdpatt) March 12, 2019
Yes. And more..— Patrick Patterson (@pdpatt) March 12, 2019
Raymond Felton also backs Westbrook’s account
Felton, one of Westbrook’s teammates also sitting on the bench, corroborated his side of the story.
Raymond Felton: “I’m going to speak on this, and I want everyone in here to really tune into this and understand...” pic.twitter.com/2rXjcQhAMV— Maddie Lee (@maddie_m_lee) March 12, 2019
“That was absurd, what they said to Russ,” Felton said. “That’s not fair, that’s not right. That’s not the first time it happened. It happened in Portland.”
Keisel’s profile is found
Twitter detectives found Keisel’s profile and several damning tweets that shed light on his beliefs outside his Jazz fandom. Keisel eventually deleted these tweets, and later deleted his entire Twitter profile.
It turns out Keisel has tweeted about Westbrook in the past. Those tweets include, “Russell Westbrook is a classless piece of shit. Somebody needs to kick his ass. #tool #poorloser” and “Russell Westbrook needs to go back where he came from!! #MAGA.”
Russell Westbrook argues with Utah Jazz fan Shane Keisel. here are some of his tweets about Westbrook. this man purposely bought tickets close to the OKC Thunder bench where both he & his wife yelled racially charged words towards Russ. Utah needs to hold this man accountable.. pic.twitter.com/ztoilJ0Kvg— Eric Britt (@_Ericbritt) March 12, 2019
The Jazz are looking into this
Utah is investigating everything and is reportedly taking the matter seriously.
According to league sources, the Jazz are conducting a full investigation into the matter, and are taking the matter of the integration between Russell Westbrook and the fans seriously— Tony Jones (@Tjonesonthenba) March 12, 2019
They should be
Remember: Westbrook had not one, but two altercations with Jazz fans during last season’s playoff series. To jog your memory, one was at halftime of Game 6 of the first round of the playoffs.
The other altercation was at the end of OKC’s disappointing loss.
Thunder’s Russell Westbrook takes exception to Utah fan after Game 6 loss to Jazz pic.twitter.com/Ef1cgEhVm4— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) April 28, 2018
After the game, Westbrook criticized Jazz fans and the level of disrespect in their trash talk.
“I don’t confront fans, fans confront me,” Westbrook said during his postgame press conference. “Here in Utah, a lot of disrespectful, vulgar things are said to the players here with these fans, man. It’s truly disrespectful. Talk about your families, about your kids. It’s just disrespect to the game, and I think it’s something that needs to be brought up.”
It’s not just Utah
Westbrook literally had to shove a Nuggets fan away after that fan ran onto the court and yelled in his face.
There was also an instance when a young Nuggets fan with court side seats poked Westbrook on the elbow, which prompted Westbrook to approach the fan and his father to explain why that wasn’t OK.
Russell Westbrook pulled the dad card on a Nuggets fan after the kid gave him a little push. pic.twitter.com/b4nBTXlV9r— ESPN (@espn) February 27, 2019
Now players are coming together to support
Utah’s own Donovan Mitchell issued a statement that read: “I am personally hurt by the incident at the game on March 11th. As a black man living in a community that I love, playing on a team that gives me the opportunity of my dreams, this incident hits close to home.” Mitchell also said he joins in on players calling to take a stand against hate speech and racist acts, and he wants to work with all parties to make a better NBA environment.
We have to do better... we will do better! pic.twitter.com/heBO4z66TY— Donovan Mitchell (@spidadmitchell) March 12, 2019
Jazz forward Thabo Sefolosha also voiced his support for Westbrook with a statement he issued, as well: “I stand 100 percent with Russell Westbrook on what happened in yesterday’s game. I love our fans but there are limits that can not be crossed,” he wrote.
Thabo Sefolosha comments on the Russell Westbrook/Shane Kiesel interaction last night: pic.twitter.com/BdHStdF6dp— Andy Larsen (@andyblarsen) March 12, 2019
Rudy Gobert also came to Westbrook’s defense: “We have his back,” Gobert said. “As much as I like to compete against Russ — and there’s always a little trash talk between me and him — as a human being, I feel for him and I understand his reaction.”
Jazz star Rudy Gobert also supports Russell Westbrook. "We have his back," Gobert told ESPN. "As much as I like to compete against Russ – and there’s always a little trash talk between me and him – as a human being, I feel for him and I understand his reaction." Story coming ...— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) March 12, 2019
National Basketball Players Association president Michele Roberts also issued a statement to The Undefeated’s Marc Spears: “We should ALL insist that a zero tolerance policy needs to [be] implemented at arenas in the face of misconduct by fans. Players don’t have the luxury of being able to unilaterally ban unruly fans ala James Dolan. The arenas, therefore, have to do a better job of insulating our players.”
UPDATE: The Jazz have banned Keisel from all events at Vivint Smart Home Arena
“The organization conducted an investigation through video review and eyewitness accounts,” the statement reads. “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.”
Westbrook was also fined $25,000
The NBA has fined Thunder guard Russell Westbrook $25,000 for profane and threatening comments towards Jazz fans.— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) March 12, 2019
Westbrook did threaten to put hands on a woman. This was all so ugly. Hopefully, the league learns and improves from this instance.