Russell Westbrook

USA Today

Russ vs. Jazz Fan

A ticket is not a license to spew racist crap at players.

March 12, 2019 - 10:05 am
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The Thunder beat the Jazz 98-89 last night. It was a big win for OKC and knocked the Jazz down to the eighth spot in the West. But that’s not why it’s getting headlines. The real story of the Thunder v. Jazz was Russell Westbrook v. Utah Jazz fans. And the clip that went viral.

If you haven’t seen it or heard it, here you go. 

Whoa. I don’t have time to read the whole transcript, but it includes lines like: “I promise you. You think I’m playing? I swear to god. I swear to god. I’ll bleep you up. You and your wife, I’ll bleep you up.”

And then “I promise you. On everything I love. Everything I love, I promise you. I swear to god.”

That’s something you don’t see or hear every day. A future hall of famer telling a fan that you will bleep him up is something. Telling a fan that “you and your wife, I’ll bleep you up” is incredible.

Incredible, but not exactly new. Not for Russ. And the Jazz fans. They got into it last year too during the playoffs. And Russ shared his thoughts then as well

So the fact that something happened last night in Utah wasn’t exactly a shock. Russ v. The State of Utah is one of the longest-running feuds in the Association. 

So when Westbrook went off last night, the old narrative returned. The script could practically write itself. Classic Westbrook. Ol Russ, running hot again... Couldn’t take the pressure of playing in Salt Lake City and lost his dome again. 

The fan, Shane Keisel, was interviewed after the game and explained his side of the story, and it sure sounded like that was the case. 

Having fun? It sure didn’t seem like it. Then again, his idea of fun might not be the same as yours or mine. 

In any event, Keisel, he told Russ to ice his knees. Russ said it was heat. Keisel then said you’re gonna need it, and then it was on. Then Russ just started f-bombing Keisel and his wife. 

At least, that’s Keisel’s story. Here’s Westbrook’s version:

According to Westbrook, the fan wasn’t telling him to use heat or ice on his knees. Instead, the fan said “to get down on my knees like you used to.” And his wife repeated it.

Again, I don’t know what was said or what wasn’t. We only have video of Westbrook’s reaction. But what Westbrook is saying makes a lot more sense. The reaction video that we have makes a lot more sense if he’s reacting to a guy and his wife making a racist remark like that, than if he was just talking about heating his knee. That sure didn’t look like someone reacting to a difference in opinion on the rehab and care for joints at this point in the season. 

Russell Westbrook is a different guy. He can be prickly at times. But do you really think he’s going to start f-bombing a fan and his wife over an argument of whether not to ice or heat his knees. We’ve gone over the list of reasons to go: treatment of the knee is not a reason to go. That’s not on anyone’s list. 

Westbrook has played 900 NBA games in his career, including playoffs. Let’s say roughly half of those are on the road. So he’s played in roughly 450 road games, which means he’s heard a lot of bleep talked by a lot of fans. And he’s going to start f-bombing and threatening a guy and his wife because that guy suggested that he apply heat to his knees? I strongly doubt that. 

But it’s not totally he-said, he-said. Because OKC’s Patrick Patterson tweeted: Fans can say [bleep] about a man’s family, wife, & kids... Tell a player “Get down on your knees like your use to.” As men, what do you expect us to do? Shut up & dribble? No one is held accountable for their actions except for us. Fans are protected in every way possible but not us.

And when asked by someone on Twitter if that’s what was said to Russ, Patterson responded: “Yes. And more...”

Another teammate, Raymond Felton, said this to the media after the game.

So that’s two teammates who are saying what Westbrook said. 

And then there are the alleged tweets from the fan. Again, I don’t know if those tweets are from him because he doesn’t have a blue check. But I know there was one tweet from last year that according to Sports Illustrated read: "Westbrook is a piece of classless s---. Somebody needs to kick his a--."

And what do you know? That tweet has been deleted. Along with the entire account. An account that allegedly had other, worse tweets. 

That’s kind of weird, right? I mean if it wasn’t Keisel’s twitter account, it’s strange that it appeared to have his picture on it and tweets going back a ways that weren’t exactly flattering. And that it’s now been deleted. 

And if it really was him doing that tweeting, it’s kind of weird that a guy who tweeted "Westbrook is a piece of classless s---. Somebody needs to kick his a--” would really just be talking to Russ about his taking care of his knees. It’s possible, I guess. 

Here’s the thing. We have a video of what Westbrook said in response to the fan. We don’t have a video of what the fan said. We have what the fan claims he said and then we have two teammates of Westbrook’s saying that’s not the case at all. And Felton adding that the fan’s wife was an active part of it, not the quiet person her husband described. 

I don’t know what was said, or what wasn’t said by the fan. But there are a pair of witnesses who are backing Russ on this. And there’s the alleged tweet. And then there’s just the reality of the situation. 

I guess it’s possible for Russ to completely lose his mind on the sideline at some fan who was telling him to care for his knees. Maybe. But I really doubt that.

If you buy a ticket to a game, you can jaw with the players a little. And some players will jaw back. But there is a line and if don’t already know where that line is, maybe you shouldn’t be going to games. Here’s a hint: racist garbage is not on the line, racist garbage is over the line. It’s so far over the line, that you if you were standing on the line, you wouldn’t even be able to see it.

And if that fan, and his wife, are spewing that bile and hate speech, then I completely understand Westbrook reacting the way he did. Hell, I admire his discipline and restraint for not saying more. In terms of that list of reasons to go… racist crap is right at the top of that list. If a fan is yelling hate speech at a player, I’m sure not going to judge the player for yelling back. And I’m not going to tell the player that the only acceptable response is to politely contact a security guard and continue to take it. 

A ticket is not a license to spew racist crap at players. I’m surprised I have to say this, but apparently I do. And paying money to go to a game and do that isn’t helping your team, it’s embarrassing your team and yourself. 

That’s not me talking about this situation. That’s me talking about any situation.