Oklahoma City point guard Russell Westbrook will not be suspended, but has been fined $25,000 by the NBA for “directing profanity and threatening language to a fan” Monday night during the Thunder’s victory in Utah.
Also, that fan, Shane Keisel, who is believed to have initiated the altercation, has been permanently banned by the Jazz from attending games inside Vivint Smart Home Arena.
The exchange occurred early in the second quarter when, Westbrook claimed — and teammates corroborated — the fan told him to “get down on my knees like I used to.”
The fan cannot be heard on video taken during the incident, yet Westbrook can.
First, speaking to security, Westbrook can be heard saying, “I’ll play my game, but I’ll f— him up.”
A moment later, he can be heard speaking directly to the fan and the person with him, who he later said had also slurred him.
“I’ll f— you up, you and your wife,” Westbrook said. “I’ll f— you up.”
After the game, Westbrook explained his reaction.
“A man and his wife in the stands told me to get down on my knees like you used to,” he said. “To me, I think it’s racial, I think it’s in appropriate.”
Westbrook went on to say that he’d never “fought a fan” or been in any trouble since coming into the league, and “I’ll take all the criticism from everybody,” but “for me, I’m just not going to continue to take the disrespect for my family and I just think that something’s got to be done, there’s got to be some consequences for those kind of people.”
The Jazz, apparently agreed.
Even before the NBA came through with its judgement and fine for Westbrook, the Jazz came through with its own.
“There is no place in our game for personal attacks or disrespect,” the Jazz's statement read, before quoting Jazz president Steve Starks at length.
“We all have a responsibility to respect the game of basketball and, more importantly, each other as human beings,” Starks said. “This has always been a hallmark of our incredible fan base and should forever be our standard moving forward.”
Westbrook received support from several Jazz players following the incident, with Donovan Mitchell, issuing a long statement, Rudy Gobert speaking to ESPN and former Thunder guard Thabo Sefolosha also issuing a statement.
“I stand 100% with Russell Westbrook on what happened in yesterday’s game,” Sefolosha wrote. “I love our fans but there are lines that cannot be crossed! Support and cheer for your team and enjoy the acton but fans like Shane Keisel, who use that platform to share their hateful and racist views need to be held accountable.”
While teammates Patrick Patterson and Raymond Felton originally said they heard the same thing Westbrook claimed to hear, ESPN reported Tuesday afternoon that the Jazz’s investigation of the incident also backed Westbrook’s account of what was said.
“If I had to do it all over again, I would say the exact same thing,” Westbrook said before his postgame media session ended. “I truly will stand up for myself and my family and my wife and my mom and my dad every single time. I expect anybody else to do the same.”
He then said that the exchange included the fan’s companion because she had repeated what Keisel said, however, said Westbrook, “I have never put my hand on a woman, I never will.”
At 6 tonight, finally back inside Chesapeake Energy Arena, the Thunder (41-26), now alone in fourth place in the Western Conference, a game behind the Houston Rockets, play host to the Brooklyn Nets.
Brooklyn at Oklahoma City
Time: 6 p.m.
Place: Chesapeake Energy Arena
Records: Brooklyn 36-33, Thunder 41-26
TV: ESPN, FSOK
Radio: WWLS-FM 98.1