West­brook fined $25,000 for in­ci­dent with Jazz fan

Team bans spec­ta­tor from all arena events

The Buffalo News - - SPORTS -

Rus­sell West­brook, one of the NBA’s high­est-pro­file stars, threat­ened a Utah Jazz fan at a game in Salt Lake City 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.” The Jazz later an­nounced a per­ma­nent ban for the fan.

In a video posted on Twit­ter by a re­porter for The De­seret News, West­brook, who is black, can be seen us­ing ex­ple­tives to say he will beat up the fan, who ap­pears to be white, and 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 that the man had said “dis­re­spect­ful things” about him and his fam­ily that he thought were “racial” 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.”

On Tues­day af­ter­noon, the NBA an­nounced that it had fined West­brook $25,000 “for di­rect­ing pro­fan­ity and threat­en­ing lan­guage to a fan.” The an­nounce­ment came shortly af­ter the Jazz, in a state­ment, said the fan would be per­ma­nently banned from all events at Vivint Smart Home Arena be­cause of “ex­ces­sive and deroga­tory ver­bal abuse di­rected at a player.” The team said it had con­ducted an in­ves­ti­ga­tion that in­cluded re­views of video and eye­wit­ness ac­counts.

The con­fronta­tion be­tween West­brook and the Jazz fan – who has pre­sented a starkly dif­fer­ent de­scrip­tion of the episode – is the lat­est in a se­ries of in­ci­dents that spot­light how fans treat ath­letes and the some­times ex­plo­sive con­se­quences that can re­sult, is­sues that both West­brook and the NBA have fre­quently been at the cen­ter of.

“There’s no pro­tec­tion for the play­ers,” West­brook said in his postgame com­ments, which were tran­scribed by a re­porter for The Salt Lake Tri­bune and later pro­vided to The New York Times by the Thun­der, who oth­er­wise didn’t com­ment on the in­ci­dent. “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.”

West­brook’s team­mates backed his ac­count of the in­ter­ac­tion. Ray­mond Fel­ton told re­porters that he had over­heard the com­ments made by the fan and said they were “to­tally dis­re­spect­ful.”

Mul­ti­ple news out­lets iden­ti­fied the Jazz fan as Shane Keisel. Keisel told ESPN that he did not swear at West­brook or oth­er­wise say any­thing in­ap­pro­pri­ate and that he be­lieved they were hav­ing fun. In an in­ter­view with lo­cal tele­vi­sion sta­tion KSL, Keisel said West­brook had been us­ing pro­fan­ity and “act­ing a fool,” which fans re­sponded to by heck­ling him.

Keisel said he saw West­brook’s knees wrapped in tow­els, so he 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 go­ing to need it.” Keisel said the woman sit­ting next to him, who ESPN iden­ti­fied as his wife, Jen­nifer Huff, did not say any­thing to West­brook and had her hands in her lap.

Keisel, who was un­avail­able for com­ment, was sit­ting in the third row on the base­line, near the Thun­der bench. Un­like in most other sports, in bas­ket­ball, fans can sit just a few feet away from play­ers.

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