It happens so often, Irving said after tallying a triple-double in Bostons 126-120 comeback victory over the Sacramento Kings. It just most of the time doesnt get documented. I think this was the first time it actually got caught on camera, that you caught a player responding like that on camera.
Westbrook and the Jazz fan, identified as Shane Keisel, recently made headlines for their heated exchange during the second quarter of Monday nights game at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City. According to Westbrook, Keisel told him to get down on [his] knees like [he] used to, prompting the 30-year-old eight-time All-Star to stand up from the bench and verbally threaten Keisel and his wife.
After the game, Westbrook — who was fined $25,000 for directing profanity and threatening language to a fan — issued a statement explaining his reaction.
For me, Im just not going to continue to take the disrespect for my family, he said. Theres got to be something done. Theres got to be some consequences for those type of people that come to the game just to say and do whatever they want to say. I dont think its fair to the players.
In the days following Mondays game, several players voiced their support for Westbrook and their distaste for Keisels behavior. Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James said the fan clearly crossed the bold line between heckling the opposing team and being disrespectful, while Jazz shooting guard Donovan Mitchell issued a statement, taking a stand against hate speech. Mitchell noted the incident was not the first time something like that has happened in [their] arena.
When its an individual battle with a person in the crowd, and they say something violently disrespectful like that, then its going to warrant a reaction, he said. If we were out and about with our families, aint nobody saying no s*** like that to us. So then, it becomes a human being thing, and things escalate, and the NBA comes in and does what its supposed to do and protects the players.
I dont know whos right or whos wrong in that situation, but Im just glad that everyones OK. When disrespectful stuff happens like that, I mean, its going to warrant a reaction. We all know Russ. When somebody says something crazy like that, hes not just going crazy out of nowhere. Im just glad hes OK.
In terms of his own experiences, Irving said hes heard it all throughout his eight-year career. He noted Utahs arena is particularly bothersome because the fans are right on top of you and stressed the importance of respecting the game as well as peoples professions.
I dont really mind the fan interaction, but not while Im at work and youre trying to get me to go, he said. Let me come to your office and yell in your ear like that.
Jazz owner Gail Miller also addressed the incident Thursday night, requesting fans hold themselves to the highest standard of decency.
The owner of the Utah Jazz addressed the Russell Westbrook incident head-on Thursday night — saying Utah is “not a racist community” … and warning fans to treat opposing players with respect.
Of course, the Westbrook incident made international headlines after he told a fan, “Ill f*ck you up.” Westbrook claimed the fan and his wife had made offensive comments. The fan denied it. The Jazz ultimately banned the fan for life.
@NBA @espn @okcthunder Westbrook threatening to beat up a guys wife at Jazz game??? pic.twitter.com/lLd7J8nJFJ
Enter Jazz owner Gail Miller … who grabbed the mic before the Jazz took on the Timberwolves at Vivint Smart Home Arena and warned fans shell boot ANYONE who acts like a jerk.
“I am extremely disappointed that one of our fans conducted himself in such a way as to offend not only a guest in our arena, but also me personally, my family, our organization, the community, our players, and you as the best fans in the NBA,” Miller said.
As for Westbrook, the OKC Thunder star has been fined $25k for “directing profanity and threatening language to a fan.”