Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James joined the chorus of NBA personnel who supported Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook following his heated exchange with Utah Jazz fan Shane Keisel during a game in Salt Lake City.
Video caught Westbrook telling Keisel, “I’ll f—- you up. You and your wife.” The two parties had different versions of the exchange after the game. Westbrook told reporters that Keisel and his wife directed “disrespectful” and “racial” language at him. Keisel denied saying anything derogatory and intends to sue Westbrook.
Before Keisel could delete his Twitter account on advise of counsel, users uncovered numerous troubling tweets, including previous physical threats and racist remarks directed at Westbrook that further called his story into question.
A cavalcade of NBA personnel supported Westbrook in the aftermath of the incident, with both OKC and Utah players supporting the Thunder star’s version of events. The Jazz banned the fan for life, citing video evidence and eyewitness accounts of his alleged “excessive and derogatory verbal abuse” of Westbrook.
The NBA fined Westbrook $25,000 for “directing profanity and threatening language to a fan,” but the message from across the league was clear: Westbrook is deserving of support, and basketball’s most prominent voice said as much on Tuesday night.
On Russell Westbrook and the fan in Utah, LeBron James supports Westbrook and the Jazz for banning the fan. He added there’s a bold line, not a fine line, between cheering for your team and being disrespectful. “Everyone knows when you’re crossing that line.” pic.twitter.com/XiCEZcaWdw— Tania Ganguli (@taniaganguli) March 13, 2019
LeBron shared his long and wide-ranging thoughts on the incident with Russell Westbrook and the (now-banned) fan, including that he salutes the Jazz for how they handled things (via @SpectrumSN) pic.twitter.com/mhIm5cxuqW— Harrison Faigen (@hmfaigen) March 13, 2019
"The good thing in social media came out when they went through everything he said about Russ and other people in his little timeline,” James said after a review of the incident. “Obviously, Russ is a very passionate guy. ... No matter if you like him or love him and the way he plays the game, the guy is one of the most loyal and down-to-earth guys I know, and that guy just took it too far on the other end. There could have been some words that Russ could have said a little bit differently, but at the end of the day, he was in the right and that guy was in the wrong."
To recap: A Jazz fan went to a game with his wife, allegedly directed “excessive and derogatory verbal abuse” at Westbrook and left banned from ever seeing the Jazz in person again, all while many of the game’s top players, including James and Jazz star Donovan Mitchell, drew attention to his online history of “hate speech.”
Let this be a lesson to all who might think about expressing similar views: Don’t.
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