SALT LAKE CITY — Russell Westbrook expressed no regrets about a heated exchange with a fan during the Oklahoma City Thunder‘s win over the Utah Jazz on Monday night, saying his threat to “f— up” the man and his wife was an emotional response to “completely disrespectful” comments directed toward him.
The exchange, which occurred while Westbrook was on or near the end of the Thunder’s bench during the second quarter, was caught on video and went viral after being posted on Twitter.
According to Westbrook, the man told him to, “Get down on your knees like you’re used to.” Westbrook considered that comment to be “racial” and “inappropriate.”
“For me, I’m just not going to continue to take disrespect for my family,” said Westbrook, who had 23 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists in the Thunder’s 98-89 win. “I just think there’s got to be something done. There’s 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 don’t think it’s fair to the players — not just to me, but I don’t think it’s fair to the players.
“And if I had to do it again, I would say the same exact thing, because I truly will stand up for myself, for my family, for my kids, for my wife, for my mom, for my dad every single time. I expect anybody else to do the same. So that’s kind of where I’m at with the whole situation. As for beating up his wife, I have never put my hand on a woman; I never will. Never been in any domestic violence before. Never have before, but once he said the comment, his wife repeated the same thing to me as well. So that’s kind of how that started. I know you guys only got the tail end of the video, but the start of the video is way more important and way more disrespectful than what you guys heard.”
The fan, 45-year-old Shane Keisel, told ESPN that he did not cuss at Westbrook or say anything inappropriate. Keisel claimed that the exchange “started off as fun” with him yelling at Westbrook to “Ice those knees up!” According to Keisel, after Westbrook replied that it was heat on his knees, Keisel hollered, “You’re going to need it.” Keisel said his girlfriend, Jennifer Huff, didn’t participate in the exchange.
Shane Keisel, the Jazz fan Russell Westbrook was yelling at, explains how the situation escalated and that he isn’t happy Westbrook went after his wife.
“He just went nuts,” Keisel told ESPN. “She never got up. She never stood up. She never said a word to him. I mean, it’s all fine, we’re having fun and games with the guy and we’re talking, but at the end of the day, no man should threaten a woman, period.
“I’m not afraid of the guy. Come on up. But when you threaten a woman that’s 5-feet tall and 110 pounds, you’re a big man. So this guy needs to be exposed.”
Keisel, who was seated in the third row on the baseline near the Thunder’s bench, said the video was shot by a fan in the first row. Keisel said he sent the video to “friends that are in the social media business” because he wanted the exchange to be seen.
“I’m going to tell you one thing, I’ll f— him up if he says that s— again. I promise you,” Westbrook said to a security guard behind the bench at the beginning of the video posted to Twitter. Westbrook then looks toward Keisel. “I promise you. You think I’m playing. I swear to God, I swear to God, I’ll f— you up. You and your wife, I’ll f— you up.
“I promise you, on everything I love. On everything I love, n—-, I promise you.”
Keisel and a few other fans were issued warning cards for “excessive verbal abuse” that was in violation of the NBA fan code of conduct. The card stated that any further verbal abuse would subject them to being ejected without a refund.
— Ute Believer (@UteBeliever) March 12, 2019
“We are continuing to investigate the unfortunate exchange at tonight’s game between Russell Westbrook and fans,” a statement released by the Jazz postgame said. “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.”
Thunder reserve guard Raymond Felton, who was on the bench, said he overheard the comments that prompted Westbrook’s anger and confirmed his teammate’s side of the story.
“I get it, sometimes some words are wrong, some things you say are wrong,” Felton said. “I’m not taking that away, I’m not saying that. All I’m saying is, when is it going to be about protecting us as players? That’s just not right for Russ to have to deal with that when they said something to him first, and they said something totally disrespectful. I heard it. I’m standing right there. I heard it. That’s not right. That’s all I’m saying. That’s not right.”
The incident was reminiscent of the finale of last year’s first-round playoff series between the Jazz and Thunder, when Utah ousted OKC in six games, after which Westbrook became involved with a fan as he exited the court.
“I didn’t confront fans; fans confronted me,” Westbrook said after the April game. “Here in Utah, man, a lot of disrespectful, vulgar things are said to the players here with these fans. It’s truly disrespectful. Talk about your families, your kids. It’s truly disrespectful to the game, man.”
That night, Westbrook slapped at a fan’s cellphone as he walked to the tunnel following the Thunder’s loss, after scoring 46 points on 43 shots. It was the second interaction that night for Westbrook with a courtside fan, with him turning and snapping at one who said something to him as he exited the floor at halftime.
“I think there are a lot of great fans around the world that like to come to the game and enjoy the game,” Westbrook said Monday night, when he issued a 2½-minute statement but did not take questions from the media. “There are people that come to the game to say mean, disrespectful things about me, my family. For many years, I’ve done all the right things. I’ve never done anything to hurt or harm anybody. I’ve never been in any trouble, never fought a fan. Been in the league 11 years — clean slate, humble.
“I’ll take whatever, all the criticism from everybody. I’ve been doing the same thing for years. For me, disrespect will not be taken from me. I completely just sit back sometimes and just take it. That’s just one video, but throughout the whole game, since I’ve been here, especially here in Utah, a lot of disrespectful things have been said.”
Felton urged the league office to make protecting the players a priority, calling the comments directed to Westbrook “absurd.”
“They’re always picking on Russ, and it’s just not right, man,” Felton said. “It’s not fair to tell a man to get on his knees: ‘That’s what you’re used to doing.’ Then turn around and his wife reiterates it and says it right back to him again. It’s not right. Then everybody wants to make a big deal out of what [Westbrook] said, but let’s talk about what they said to him first.
“He’s not coming off and talking to the fans, just saying stuff to them, just blurting out words. He’s not. They’re coming at him first. When is there going to be a point where there’s going to be protecting us players? People can say whatever they want to say to us during games and yell out stuff and talk about our families, talk about our kids. And that’s just not fair. That’s not right. So when is there going to be a point where it’s going to be about protecting us players?”