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Utah Jazz ban fan after Russell Westbrook alleges ‘racial’ comments prompted threats

Russell Westbrook gets into a heated verbal altercation with fans during a game against the Jazz Monday night in Salt Lake City. (Rick Bowmer/Associated Press)

Russell Westbrook accused a Utah Jazz fan of making “racial” and “inappropriate” comments to him after video surfaced of the Oklahoma City Thunder’s all-star guard making profane threats toward the fan and his female companion Monday night.

In a statement issued Tuesday, the Jazz announced that the fan, Shane Keisel, has been permanently banned from all events at Vivint Smart Home Arena following a full review of video evidence and eyewitness accounts.

“The ban is based on excessive and derogatory verbal abuse directed at a player,” the statement read. “The Utah Jazz will not tolerate fans who act inappropriately. There is no place in our game for personal attacks or disrespect.”

The NBA also fined Westbrook $25,000 for "directing profanity and threatening language” towards the fans.

During the first half of the Thunder’s 98-89 win on Monday, Westbrook was caught on video turning and pointing to Keisel.

“I’ll f--- him up,” Westbrook said. “I promise you. I promise you. I’ll f--- you up. You and your wife. I’ll f--- you up.”

The video, which was shared on social media by the Deseret News, did not include audio of the fan’s statements or actions that precipitated Westbrook’s comments.

Westbrook, 30, addressed the exchange at length during his postgame comments, telling reporters that he reacted to “completely disrespectful” comments that he believed were “racial” in nature.

“How it started was: A young man and his wife in the stands told me to get down on my knees like I’m used to,” Westbrook said. “For me, that’s completely disrespectful. To me, I think it’s racial and inappropriate. . . . There are a lot of great fans around the world that like to come to the game to enjoy the game, [and] there are people who come to the game to say mean and disrespectful things about me and my family.”

The Thunder’s Patrick Patterson and Raymond Felton confirmed Westbrook’s account of the fan’s behavior.

This isn’t the first exchange between Westbrook and Jazz fans. After a season-ending Game 6 loss to Utah in the first round of last year’s playoffs, Westbrook swiped at a fan who was attempting to film him with a camera phone as he walked off the court. After that incident, Westbrook told reporters: “I don’t confront fans, fans confront me.” He singled out Utah fans for saying “disrespectful, vulgar things.”

Westbrook repeated those themes on Monday, defending his reputation while accusing Jazz fans of crossing the line throughout his career.

“For many years, I’ve done all the right things,” he said. “I’ve never done anything to hurt or harm anybody. I’ve never been in any trouble or fought a fan. Been in the league 11 years: clean slate. Humble. I take all the criticism from everybody. I’ve been doing the same thing for years. For me, disrespect will not be taken.

“That’s just one video. Throughout the whole game, since I’ve been here, especially here in Utah, there’s a lot of disrespectful things that’s said. I’m not going to continue to take the disrespect to my family. There’s gotta be something done. There’s got to be some consequences for those types of people.”

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Westbrook didn’t apologize for his comments, instead saying that he would respond the same way if given a second chance.

“I don’t think it’s fair to the players,” he said. “If I had to do it over again, I would say the same exact thing. I truly will stand up for myself and my family, for my kids, for my wife, for my mom, for my dad. I expect everyone else to do the same.”

In an interview with KSL Sports, Keisel identified himself as the Jazz fan involved in the verbal altercation. Keisel said that he told Westbrook to “sit down and ice his knees” because Westbrook was wearing wraps on both knees.

“Russ is just f-bombing, and carrying on, acting a fool and everybody is getting on him,” Keisel said. “I never said a swear word to him. Everybody in the vicinity will say that. [My companion] never left her seat and never said a word. Hands in her lap. Never said a single swear word to him. Not one.

“Initially, I was like, ‘I’m talking with Westbrook. The guy is one of the greats.’ But he’s also classless. . . . He can threaten me all he wants. I was the one talking to him, but don’t threaten a woman. She’s 5 feet tall and 110 pounds, man. Never said a word to him. Her first NBA game ever. Welcome to the NBA.”

Westbrook had a sharply different interpretation of the events, telling reporters that Keisel’s female companion had also provoked him before the start of the video clip.

“As for beating up his wife, I have never put my hand on a woman,” he said. “I never will. I’ve never been in any domestic violence before. Once he said the comment, his wife repeated it — the same thing — to me as well. That’s how that started. The start of the video is way more important and way more disrespectful than what you guys heard [me say].”

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Westbrook finished with a team-high 23 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists, as the Thunder completed a four-game season sweep of the Jazz.