SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – The conduct of Utah Jazz fans is once again under a national microscope after Monday night’s heated exchange between Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder and a fan sitting courtside.
Deseret News reporter Eric Woodyard captured part of it on video.
“I ain’t playin’,” Westbrook tells the man. “I swear to God. I swear to God. I’ll (expletive) you up. You and your wife.”
After the game, Westbrook told reporters he was just standing up for himself.
“This young man and his wife in the stands told me to get down on my knees like I used to and for me, that’s just completely disrespectful to me,” Westbrook said. “I think it’s racial. I think it’s just inappropriate.”
Dr. Bryan K. Hotchkins, Ph.D., is a former Assistant Professor at the University of Utah who now teaches at Texas Tech University.
“It makes sense that Russell Westbrook, given the history of black males being castrated during slavery and being demoralized and marginalized it makes sense that Russell can make those connections where not only is it demeaning from a sexual overture but it intersects at Russell being African American and that person being a white male,” Dr. Hotchkins said.
On Tuesday the Jazz permanently banned that fan from Vivint Smart Home Arena and released a statement from team President Steve Starks, reading in part, “Offensive and abusive behavior does not reflect the values of the Miller family, our organization and the community. We all have a responsibility to respect the game of basketball and, more importantly, each other as human beings. This has always been a hallmark of our incredible fan base and should forever be our standard moving forward.”
Clint Peterson is a longtime Jazz fan and an admitted heckler.
“It’s one thing to get a reaction, I mean I got Kobe Bryant to flip me off once,” Peterson said laughing. “I didn’t say anything racially charged. I just said ‘Hey Utah hates you.'”
But even Peterson says topics like race, religion, and families are off limits.
“I think it’s up to us fans to curb that sort of behavior, point them out, tell ’em it’s not OK,” Peterson said. “You know I mean we’re going to get that reputation just because being predominantly white so don’t feed into it.”
The next Jazz home game is Thursday against the Minnesota Timberwolves. They are not scheduled to play the Thunder again in the 2019 regular season.