After notching his second career triple-double Thursday night vs. the Kings, Kyrie Irving addressed the issue that has taken the NBA world by storm.
Thunder guard Russell Westbrook was fined $25,000 and a Utah Jazz fan was banned from games at Vivint Smart Home Arena after the two were involved in a verbal altercation on Monday. Westbrook claimed the fan shouted inappropriate, racist taunts at him, and eyewitnesses confirmed his side of the story.
"It's funny, man, it's just funny," Irving said with a laugh. "I'm sorry this is just -- because it happens so often. Just most of the time it doesn't get documented. This one is the first time it actually got caught on camera and you caught a player responding like that on camera and it's no justification on either side, who's right, who's wrong, but at the same time we're trying to protect the league that goes about being compassionate for the players, being compassionate for the fans."
Irving noted that interactions like as the one between Westbrook and the fan in Utah happen frequently. The only difference is this one just happened to be captured on video.
"When it's an individual battle with a person in the crowd and they say something violently disrespectful like that then it's going to warrant a reaction," Irving said. "Because I think at the same time if we were out, out and about with our families, ain't nobody saying no sh*t like that to us. So then it becomes like a human being thing, and things escalate, and the NBA comes in and does what they're supposed to do and protects the players. So I don't know who's right or who's wrong in that situation but I'm just glad everyone's OK. But when disrespectful stuff happens like that, I mean, it's going to warrant a reaction. We all know Russ, so somebody says something like that, he's not just going crazy out of nowhere like that, so, I'm just glad he's OK. I've heard so many things over my career, it's just this one time it got documented by somebody."
While many criticized the Utah fanbase following the Westbrook altercation, Irving says these kinds of incidents happen everywhere. However, he isn't fond of Jazz fans' ability to shout at players as they sit on the bench right next to them.
"I've heard it all, man," he said. "Utah, Phoenix, California, wherever you go, fans are going to be passionate about their teams but that's just taking it too far. And, on top of it, in Utah, the fans are right on top of you, so their fans are, like, literally in the bleachers, like sitting right next to you on the bench. I don't really mind the fan interaction but not when I'm at work and you're trying to get me to go because I would come to -- let me come to your office and yell in your ear like that. That's the same thing I value, it's just the respect thing of the game and people's professions."
Before Utah hosted the Timberwolves on Thursday night, Jazz owner Gail Miller addressed the crowd to remind the fanbase that these kinds of altercations "should never happen."
Gail Miller addressed tonight's crowd ahead of tip-off ❤️ pic.twitter.com/nJcmPD2kD4
— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) March 15, 2019
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