Russell Westbrook expressed no regrets for the heated exchanged both he and a Jazz fan had during the Oklahoma City Thunder’s win over the Utah Jazz on Monday Night. “I’ll f— you up” said Westbrook to the fan and his wife after what was an emotional response to “completely disrespectful” comments towards him.
According to Westbrook in an interview after the game, he stated that the fan told him to get on his knees like he’s used to. Westbrook considered that “racial” and “inappropriate”. He then later expressed that there has to be something done about this. “I just think there’s got to be something done. There’s got to be some consequences for those type of people who 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” said Westbrook.
Westbrook later defended his actions by stating that if he had the choice to do it again, he would do it the same way. “And if I had to do it again, I would say the same 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”.
Not only were we able to hear Westbrook’s side of the story, but we were also able to hear the fan’s perspective of things. 45-year-old Shane Keisel told ESPN that he did not cuss at Westbrook, nor say anything inappropriate towards him either. Keisel later stated in the interview that the exchange “started off as fun” to him. He started with him yelling at Westbrook to “ice those knees up!” According to Keisel, Westbrook responded by saying it was heat on his knees. Keisel then responded by saying “You’re going to need it!” Keisel also said in the interview that his wife had nothing to do with it, and took no action in this heated exchange.
“He just went nuts” said Keisel. “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.” “I’m not afraid of the guy. Come on up. But when you threaten a woman that’s 5 feet tall and 110 pounds, you’re a big man. So this guy needs to be exposed.”
Westbrook’s teammate, Patrick Patterson, shared what he heard, and expressed throughout on how he felt about the situation.
(Warning: The tweet contains explicit language)
Say what you want about Westbrook perhaps being too sensitive, but in this case, it’s clear that Keisel is at fault. It’s clear that Keisel is lying, as he was exposed by his own twitter account. On some of those tweets from 2018, he has always been saying that Westbrook should go back to where he is from.
(Warning: The tweet contains explicit language)
This isn’t the first time that a Jazz fan has had an altercation with Westbrook. Last year in the playoff series between the Thunder and Jazz, Westbrook talked about fans in Utah after a few altercations with them during the series.
“I didn’t confront fans; fans confronted me,” Westbrook said after the April game. “Here in Utah, man, a lot of disrespectful, vulgar things are said to the players here with these fans. It’s truly disrespectful. Talk about your families, your kids. It’s truly disrespectful to the game, man.”
The fans in Utah have not only had heated exchanges with Westbrook, but they have also displayed racial encounters and vulgar actions with other athletes. In April of 2018, former NBA player Stephen Jackson called Utah the most racist place to play in the NBA. In a playoff series between the Golden State Warriors and the Utah Jazz in 2007, Jackson said fans in attendance would call him and his teammates the “six-letter word”. The fans would also have cut-ups of Jackson in jail clothing as well.
During those playoffs, Jazz guard Derek Fisher was not in attendance for Game 2 of the series. At the time, his eleven-month-old daughter Tatum, was diagnosed with retinoblastoma, a rare type of eye cancer. Fisher would later land in Salt Lake City during the game, and made an appearance in the third quarter of the game. Fisher would later make clutch baskets throughout the game, ultimately helping the Jazz win the game.
Fisher had requested that he wanted to play in Los Angeles or New York, due to his daughter’s condition. He wanted to stay closer to his daughter and didn’t want to keep going back-and-forth. During the summer of 2007, Fisher signed with the Los Angeles Lakers, and that just left Jazz fans in anger. In the 2008 playoffs, the Lakers and Jazz met in the semi-finals, and during Game 3, Fisher was booed, as there were many fans wearing shirts saying “Fisher is a liar”. In Game 4, Utah fans chanted “cancer” when Fisher was at the free-throw line.
Ever since the incident between Westbrook and Keisel, Westbrook has been fined $25,000 for the threats, while Keisel has been banned from the arena. This was the right thing to do, as this should be a lesson for both the athletes and fans moving forward. Fans should have no business encountering with athletes, as their job is to cheer for their team and to boo the opponent.
But the issue remains. What should the league do about these fans that cross the line? Especially with these Utah fans, who are known to say racial and vulgar things to athletes. Attacking athletes on a personal level, or trying to bring an athlete down through race, fans in Utah are notorious for these type of things. This is not to say that every Utah fan is like this, but there are plenty that are, and this is an issue the NBA needs to address not only for now, but for future purposes.