Russell Westbrook didn’t particularly like the fans in Utah before Monday night’s game. The Oklahoma City Thunder star’s opinion will likely be worse after another heated exchange during the game against the Jazz at Vivint Smart Home Arena.
In video shared on social media, Westbrook was seen unleashing a profanity-laced tirade at a fan off screen near the Thunder bench. It was unclear what set Westbrook off, and the fan is never seen in the video shared.
Before addressing the fan, Westbrook appears to speak with an arena official. He points in the fan’s direction, saying, “I’m going to tell you one thing. I’ll (expletive) him up.”
Westbrook then turns and yells to the fan.
“I promise you. You think I’m playing?” he says. “I swear to God. I swear to God. I’ll (expletive) you up. You and your wife. I’ll (expletive) you up.”
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Westbrook briefly turns his attention to the action on the court before addressing the fan once more.
“I promise you,” he repeats. “On everything I love. Everything I love.”
Westbrook addressed the confrontation with reporters after the game.
“The realization of it is, how it started was, a young man and his wife in the stands told me ‘to get down on your knees like you used to.’ To me, that’s just completely disrespectful. I think it’s racial, and I think it’s inappropriate in the sense that there’s no protection for the players.
“I think there a lot of great fans that 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.”
“That’s just one video, but throughout the game, since I’ve been here, especially here in Utah, every time I come here there’s a lot of disrespectful things that’s said,” Westbrook added. “For me, I’m just not going to continue to take the disrespect for my family.”
Salt Lake City’s KSL5TV later identified the fan as Shane Keisel, who spoke to the station’s reporter about the incident. Keisel said he mentioned Westbrook icing his knees.
“It was when Joe (Ingles) had come by and poked Paul George in the eye, and then Joe goes over and apologizes immediately,” Keisel said. “Russ is just F-bombing and carrying on, acting a fool down here, and everybody’s getting on him.”
“I never said a swear word to him,” Keisel continued. “Everybody in the vicinity will say it. And she never left her seat, never said a word, hands in her lap. Never said a single swear word to him, not one. Initially I was like, ‘Oh, I’m talking with Westbrook. The guy’s one of the greats.’ But he’s also classless.”
It was unclear at what point during the game the incident occurred, but it overshadowed Westbrook’s night on the court. He finished with 23 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists to lead the Thunder to a 98-89 win.
The Jazz issued a statement later that said the team is “continuing to investigate the unfortunate exchange between Russell Westbrook and fans. Multiple warning cards were issued by arena security. Players and fans have a shared responsibility to create a safe and respectful environment. If it is determined that any fans violated the NBA Code of Conduct appropriate action will be taken.”
Monday night’s incident was not the first between Westbrook and a fan in Utah. He had a pair of confrontations during last year’s first-round playoff series between the Thunder and Jazz.
During Game 6 of the series last April, Westbrook was walking off the court at halftime when a fan leaned over a railing to shout at him. Westbrook turned and appeared to yell “Back the (expletive) up” before being separated.
After the Thunder lost the game and the series, Westbrook took a swipe in the direction of a fan who appeared to be recording the Oklahoma City star on his phone.
“I don’t confront fans, fans confront me,” Westbrook said after the game. “Here in Utah, man, a lot of disrespectful, vulgar things are said to the players here with these fans. It’s truly disrespectful. (They) talk about your families, your kids. It’s just a disrespect to the game and I think it’s something that needs to be brought up.
“I’m tired of just going out and playing and letting fans say what the hell they want to say. I’m not with that. If I was on the street, they wouldn’t just come up to me and say anything crazy, because I don’t play that (expletive).”
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Follow Matt Eppers on Twitter @meppers_.