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Russell Westbrook Says He Threatened Utah Jazz Fan After ‘Racial’ Taunt

Category: Other Sports,Sports

Russell Westbrook, one of the N.B.A.’s highest-profile stars, threatened a Utah Jazz fan at a game on Monday night after he said the fan made a “racial” taunt at him, demanding that he “get down on my knees like you used to.”

In a video posted on Twitter by a reporter for The Desert News, Westbrook can be seen using an expletive to say that he will beat the fan up, and at one point he extends the threat to include the man’s wife. The video is about 30 seconds long and does not show the full encounter or what prompted Westbrook, a guard for the visiting Oklahoma City Thunder, to react to the fan.

After the game, Westbrook told reporters in Salt Lake City that the man had disrespected him and his family and suggested that the video posted online lacked important context. He acknowledged that he had threatened to beat up the fan’s wife, but said he had “never put his hand on a woman” and “never will.”

He also stood by his actions, saying, “If I had to do it over again, I would say the same exact thing.”

The confrontation between Westbrook and the Jazz fan — who has presented a starkly different description of the episode — again put a spotlight on how fans treat athletes from the stands and the sometimes explosive consequences when athletes decide to respond to taunting.

“There’s no protection for the players,” Westbrook said in his comments, which were transcribed by a reporter for The Salt Lake Tribune and later provided to The New York Times by the Thunder. “I think there are a lot of great fans who like to come to the game and enjoy the game. And then there are people that come to the game to say disrespectful things about me, my family.”

One of Westbrook’s teammates, Patrick Patterson, appeared to confirm Westbrook’s account of events on Twitter and wrote that “fans are protected in every way possible but not us.” Another teammate, Raymond Felton, told reporters that he had also overheard the comments made by the fan to Westbrook and said they were “totally disrespectful.”

The local television station KSL 5 TV in Salt Lake City identified the Jazz fan as Shane Keisel. In an interview with the station, Keisel said Westbrook had been using profanity, “carrying on” and “acting a fool,” which had caused fans to berate him. He then described a mundane exchange in which he personally heckled Westbrook.

Having seen that Westbrook’s knees were wrapped in towels, Keisel said he had told him to “sit down and ice your knees, bro.” Westbrook responded that the wraps were for heat, Keisel said, adding that he then told Westbrook, “Well, you’re gonna need it.”

“It turned into” something Keisel said was “not safe for work.”

“I never said a swear word to him,” Keisel continued, adding that his wife also did not speak to Westbrook and had her hands in her lap. It did not appear that Keisel was asked specifically about Westbrook’s allegations. Attempts to reach Keisel were unsuccessful on Tuesday.

In a statement provided to The Times on Tuesday, the Jazz said arena security had issued several warning cards to fans during the game. The team said that it was investigating the episode and that “appropriate action” would be taken if fans had violated the league’s code of conduct.


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