The Utah Jazz organization has come out in full support of Oklahoma City Thunder (OKC) star Russell Westbrook. He was involved in a verbal altercation with a fan during Monday’s game in Salt Lake City.
The team announced a permanent ban on Shane Keisel, the fan involved in the dispute, based on “excessive and derogatory verbal abuse” directed toward Westbrook.
Utah Jazz President Steve Starks said, “Everyone deserves the opportunity to enjoy and play the game in a safe, positive and inclusive environment. Offensive and abusive behavior does not reflect the values of the Miller family, our organization and the community,” in a statement on NBA.com.
Jazz players also came out in solidarity with the OKC star.
Forward Thabo Sefolosha wrote, “I stand 100% with Russell Westbrook on what happened in yesterday’s game. I love our fans but there are limits that can not be crossed,” in an Instagram post.
Star Donovan Mitchell shared how he was impacted by the exchange. “As a black man living in a community I love, and playing on a team a that gives me the opportunity to leave 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 area.”
Utah Jazz fans have developed a reputation around the NBA for ruthless taunting and heckling, but Mitchell claimed there has been great progress made toward developing a positive environment.
“The Utah that I have come to love is welcome 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,” he wrote.
While the Jazz organization and players offered support to Westbrook, he was fined $25,000 for directing “profanity and threatening language to a fan,” by the NBA.
The point guard accused Keisel of saying, “Get down on your knees like you’re used to,” during the first half of the game. He replied, “I promise you. You think I’m playing. I swear to God, I swear to God, I’ll f**k you up. You and your wife, I’ll f**k you up.”
Keisel denied Westbrook’s claims and originally told ESPN he said, “Ice those knees up! You’re going to need it,” in “fun.” He was later found to have a documented history of violent, racist and xenophobic tweets geared toward the NBA star.