SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – A high-profile incident involving Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder and a Utah Jazz fan has once again put the conduct of Jazz fans in the national spotlight.
Deseret News reporter Eric Woodyard captured part of the exchange 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 defended his actions.
“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. I think it’s racial. I think it’s just inappropriate,” Westbrook told reporters.
“To me, that’s a slavery connotation,” said Cedric Williams, who was at Monday night’s game and witnessed the incident. “Get on your knees you’re subservient to me or you know, you’re lesser than me.”
The fan who made the alleged comments has been identified as Shane Kiesel.
Kiesel has spoken out to various news outlets and insists the trash talk on his part was innocent.
Williams was sitting near Kiesel at the game and admits, in the beginning, the banter was “kind of innocent,” but escalated to racist and degrading.
“It started off with him telling Westbrook, ‘Just sit down clown, ice your knees west-broke,’ saying ‘He doesn’t have a shot, sit down and ice your knees.” And then it went from that, to ‘Get on your knees,’ and then it went from that to — I don’t know if it was the same guy, but I hear, ‘Sit down N*****’. From there it hit a different tone from that point forward.”
Williams has played professional basketball overseas and admits trash talk is part of the game but says Kiesel went too far. Topics like race, religion, and families should be off-limits, he said.
“Back in the day, you used to be able to say any and everything on the court. But as far as in the stands — as far as fans to players — definitely, you shouldn’t talk about their wife, their kids, things of that nature. You should keep it civil,” explained Williams.
Kiesel’s actions have earned him a lifetime ban from any events held in the Vivint Smart Home Arena.
Many professional athletes have weighed in on the incident, including, former NBA athlete Matt Barnes:
Utah Jazz Shooting Guard Donovan Mitchell released the following statement:
The Jazz are not scheduled to play the Thunder again in the 2019 regular season.