Westbrook Calls For NBA To Step In On Abusive Fans After Jazz Incident
Thunder G Russell Westbrook last night had another run-in with Jazz fans, as he was "involved in a verbal altercation" with a couple seated near the Thunder's bench at Vivint Smart Home Arena, according to Andy Larsen of the SALT LAKE TRIBUNE. The exchange was partially caught on video, with Westbrook saying, "I swear to god, I’ll f--- you up. You and your wife, I’ll f--- you up. Promise you on everything I love, I promise you." After the game, Westbrook explained his side of the story: “How it started was, a young man and his wife in the stands told me ‘to get down on my knees like you used to.’ To me, that’s just completely disrespectful, to me, I think it’s racial, and I think it’s inappropriate." He said that the NBA and its arenas "need to do more to curtail fan abuse thrown in the direction of players." Westbrook: “There’s gotta be something done." Shane Keisel, the fan involved in the matter, said that Westbrook "misunderstood what Keisel yelled." Keisel said he told Westbrook to “sit down and ice your knees, bro.” Westbrook also explained why he "threatened Keisel’s wife as well." He said, "As for beating up his wife, I’ve never put my hand on a woman, I never will. Never been in any domestic violence before. But once he said the comment, and his wife repeated the same thing as well" (SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, 3/12).
PROBLEMS PERSIST:The Jazz in a statement last night said that they were "continuing to investigate the situation and that arena security had issued multiple warning cards." The statement said, "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." In Oklahoma City, Maddie Lee notes Thunder F Patrick Patterson "took to Twitter almost immediately after the game to also call for protection for players." It was the "second time in two weeks that Thunder players called for more protection from fans." A young fan at Denver's Pepsi Center "reaching out to hit Westbrook on the arm in the middle of the Thunder’s loss to the Nuggets on Feb. 26 sparked a similar conversation" (OKLAHOMAN, 3/12). Westbrook said, "Throughout the whole game, since I’ve been here, especially here in Utah, every time I come here it’s a lot of disrespectful things that’s said." In Utah, Eric Woodyard notes last night's incident "only adds to Westbrook’s ongoing beef with Utah fans." During the first round of the '18 postseason, he also had "two confrontations with Jazz fans" in Vivint Smart Home Arena (DESERET NEWS, 3/12).
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE? The SALT LAKE TRIBUNE's Larsen writes "pretty much everybody's probably in the wrong." Westbrook "clearly is," as he "threatened a fan and his wife." That is "not good in any circumstance." But Larsen adds: "I don’t entirely believe the fan’s version of events." Moving forward, this incident will "raise national notoriety about Utah fans even more than they were in the past" (SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, 3/12). ESPN’s Trey Wingo asked, “Is the NBA going to try and figure out a way to make this less explosive on both sides? Is there a way that you can still have fans so close to some of these players and avoid this situation?” ("Golic & Wingo,” ESPN Radio, 3/12). ESPN’s Jalen Rose said, “The NBA fan interaction with the players is the best that we have in professional sports, but there will always be those people in the arena that take it too far." He added, "I don't think there should be sweeping changes to how we do things in the NBA … (but) action has to take place and then things like this don't escalate” (“Get Up,” ESPN, 3/12). ESPN’s Doris Burke: "I don't know what can be done about it. Those seats are at a premium, they bring in a ton of revenue, but there must be something done to address fans' behavior” (“Golic & Wingo,” ESPN Radio, 3/12).