The NBA world was abuzz Monday night as video of Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook engaging in a vocal confrontation with a Utah Jazz fan began to go viral. Westbrook was seen issuing a threat to the fan and his wife in the heated exchange.
Following the game, Westbrook alleged the fan was disrespectful and ‘racial’ in his remarks, prompting the impassioned response. It wasn’t the first time the fiery guard has become entangled with fans, particularly in Utah.
Part of Westbrook’s statement included calling on the NBA to better protect its players and render punishment for fans who are responsible for creating a volatile environment. He was fined $25,000 on Tuesday for “directing profanity and threatening language” toward fans.
While he didn’t have any direct ties to the situation, LeBron James’ history of being an outspoken leader led to him being questioned about the incident. James went into great detail with his perception and viewpoint after the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Chicago Bulls, via Spectrum SportsNet:
“I did not see it when it happened. Obviously, I heard about it today. I wanted to get all of the information before I even commented on it. I think that situation, the fan was out of line in what he said to Russ. There comes a point where it’s about respect. The only thing we’ve got in life is respect at the end of the day. We play basketball, we can report about the game, you guys can cover the game, but at the end of the day as a man, all you’ve got is your respect.
That guy crossed the line. It was funny that he tried to backtrack and say what he didn’t do when they interviewed him. I’ve never seen a fan get interviewed like that before. And then, one thing about as bad as social media is, the good thing about social media came out when they went through everything he’s said about Russ, said about other people in his little timeline. Obviously Russ is a very passionate guy.
Russ is married with three kids, a set of twins. And no matter if you like him or love him, or the way he plays the game, this guy is one of the most loyal people that I know, one of the most down-to-Earth guys that I know. And that guy just took it too far on the other end. There could’ve been some words Russ could’ve said a little differently, but at the end of the day, he was in the right, that guy was in the wrong. Stand up and I salute the Utah Jazz and their organization doing what they did, and we move forward.
Fans, I understand they pay hard-earned money to watch our beautiful game, to watch our beautiful players, and I respect that. But there’s a fine line when you go to the disrespectful side on, ‘Am I cheering my team on? Am I heckling the opposing guy? Or am I crossing the line? And there’s a fine line — it’s not a fine line. That line is very bold — everyone knows when you’re crossing the line.”
After launching an investigation, the Jazz took action on Tuesday, announcing Shane Keisel was permanently banned from all events at Vivint Smart Home Arena.
“The ban is based on excessive and derogatory verbal abuse directed at a player,” the Jazz said in a statement. “The Utah Jazz will not tolerate fans who act inappropriately. There is no place in our game for personal attacks or disrespect.”