It is the agitators who get things done. Or, at the very least, who shame and expose the stodgy folks who don’t want to get things done.
One creates meaningful change, the other identifies those standing in the way of meaningful change.
The best recent example of the latter is Colin Kaepernick, who not only exposed the stodginess of the buttoned down NFL and its ownership — and a swath of Americans insensitive to unarmed black men being killed by police and other racial issues — but got them to pay him off for how they handled that exposure, too.
The one who’s actually making change, even immediately, is Russell Westbrook.
Monday night, at Utah, when a man — and his wife, too, says Westbrook — told him to “get on his knees like he used to,” Westbrook came back with his own provoked, yet still out of bounds, response.
“I’ll f— you up,” Westbrook said. “You and your wife, I’ll f— you up.”
For that, the Oklahoma City point guard should have been suspended. Instead, he was only fined $25,000.
So, if you’re lamenting the 19-point lead the Thunder gave back in Thursday’s loss at Indiana, don’t sweat it because Westbrook should have been unavailable for that one or the night-before’s home-court victory over Brooklyn. One way or another, OKC was supposed to lose one of those games.
Also, his not being suspended robbed us of what might have been a very grown-up moment for the Thunder and Westbrook.
Because Westbrook might have accepted a one-game ban, chose not to appeal, apologized for stepping over the line, yet not for getting in those fans' faces, and again reiterated the need to put rules in place that keep horrible fan behavior out of the league.
That didn’t happen.
However, the last part of it is happening and very well isn’t if Westbrook would have A) simply taken the verbal abuse or B) responded to it any less demonstrably and awfully.
Yet, because he was so offended, and because that offense took him down his own unfortunate path, things are getting done.
On Tuesday, the Jazz announced they'd banned Shane Keisel, the fan involved in the incident, from Vivint Smart Home Arena. On Thursday, an additional fan, who was not identified, was also banned from the Jazz’s arena, according to reporting from the the Deseret News, Salt Lake City's newspaper.
The kicker on the second dismissal is that it was doled out to a fan who could be heard calling Westbrook “boy” during Game 4 of Oklahoma City’s and Utah’s playoff series against each other last postseason.
Hey, when an NBA franchise is unwilling to grandfather in previous awful deeds by its fans and punishes them instead, you know it’s serious.
Jazz owner Gail Miller addressed the home crowd Thursday night in Salt Lake City before the Jazz tipped against (and beat) Minnesota for an impassioned 3 1/2 minutes from center court.
“Other teams are not our enemy,” she said. “They are our competition.”
She even addressed the fact that, perhaps unlike any other NBA arena, the only people of color at Utah’s, very nearly, are the players.
“It is also important that you support our players as citizens of our community and treat them and their families with respect,” she said. “They have chosen to become part of our community and they make us richer with their diversity.”
The NBA might have nailed it by simultaneously sitting Westbrook for a game while also taking a very public stance that the new policy at its arenas for the behavior Westbrook responded to will be zero tolerance.
It may, anyway.
Or maybe, there are legal considerations that make it not quite so simple and, heck, maybe that’s why it went light with Westbrook. Perhaps that’s its way of siding with the players who face disrespectful and sometimes racial taunts.
Still, there’s no argument.
Westbrook raised holy hell, went too far in doing it and even promised to do it again if it happens again and Utah responded.
Also, because it looks terrific doing the right thing, other organizations are bound to follow suit with their own seriousness. Or maybe just because they like doing the right thing.
It’s always the agitators.
Golden State at Oklahoma City
Place: Chesapeake Energy Arena
Records: Golden State 46-21, Thunder 42-27
Radio: WWLS-FM 98.1