Donovan Mitchell, Jazz back Westbrook, as Utah fan receives lifetime ban
The fallout from Monday night’s heated exchange between Oklahoma City Thunder star Russell Westbrook and a Utah Jazz fan has not worked in the fan’s favor, resulting in a lifetime ban for him and a widespread show of support for Westbrook.
Accordingly, the fan plans to file a lawsuit against Westbrook, according to KSL TV.
In solidarity with his fellow NBA players in their stand against racism and hate speech, Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell issued a statement Monday supporting Westbrook following the exchange at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City.
In addition to supporting Westbrook, Mitchell’s statement was a direct rebuke of the Jazz fan in question and a call for all teams to stand against racism and hate speech in their fanbases following multiple incidents in Utah and around the league.
“I am personally hurt by the incident at the game on March 11th,” Mitchell said in the statement, via Deseret News reporter Eric Woodyard. “As a black man living in a community I love, and playing on a team that gives me the opportunity to live out my dreams, this incident hits close to home. Racism and hate speech hurts us all, and this is not the first time something like that has happened in our arena. The Utah that I have come to love is welcoming and inclusive and last night’s incident is not indicative of our fanbase. We don’t want to create a negative reputation for athletes who potentially may want to come to Utah.
“I want to thank my team and the NBA for quickly responding to this hateful incident, and for helping to make our arena a place where all fans and players are welcome. I join other players in calling for teams to take a stand. We should not be subject to hate speech or racist acts at any time, and definitely not in our arenas.”
Mitchell called for a stricter ban on all hate speech in arenas across the NBA. The 22-year-old also vowed to work with his foundation, SPIDACARES, as well as the Jazz, his teammates and the league, to combat racial inequality in the community.
Russell Westbrook’s exchange with a fan
Video late in the Thunder’s 98-89 win over the Jazz on Monday showed Westbrook telling someone in the Utah crowd, “I promise you. You think I’m playing? I swear to God. I swear to God. I’ll f—- you up. You and your wife. I’ll f—- you up.”
Afterwards, Westbrook told reporters he reacted when two fans told him “to get down on my knees like you used to.” He called the fans’ comments “completely disrespectful” and “racial,” vowing to “say the same exact thing” again if he had to.
Addressing the concerning comments about the female fan, Westbrook clarified, “As for beating up his wife, I’ve never put my hand on a woman, I never will.”
Westbrook also had several run-ins with Jazz fans during last year’s playoffs.
The Jazz fan’s explanation
The male fan in question, former Utah Highway Patrol Sergeant Shane Keisel, denied making those specific comments, painting a rosier picture with KSL TV.
“Russ is just f-bombing and carrying on, acting a fool down here, and everybody’s getting on him. ... I just told him, ‘Just sit down and ice your knees, bro,” said Keisel, adding that neither he nor his wife “ever said a swear word” to Westbrook.
Keisel’s defense came under scrutiny when Thunder players Patrick Patterson and Raymond Felton both supported Westbrook’s version of events. It held less water when Twitter discovered numerous troubling tweets from Keisel’s since-deleted account, including previous physical threats and racist remarks toward Westbrook.
Keisel denied directing racist comments at Westbrook in telling KSL TV of his plans for a lawsuit against the former MVP. He deleted his Twitter on advice of counsel.
Moments after news broke of Keisel’s intention to sue Westbrook, the Jazz banned him for life and joined Mitchell in backing Westbrook’s summation of the incident.
“The organization conducted an investigation through video review and eyewitness accounts,” the Jazz announced in a statement on Tuesday afternoon. “The ban is based on excessive and derogatory verbal abuse directed at a player during the game that violated the NBA Code of Conduct.
“The Utah Jazz will not tolerate fans who act inappropriately. There is no place in our game for personal attacks or disrespect.”
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