SALT LAKE CITY — UPDATE: 3:30 p.m. — The NBA fined Russell Westbrook $25,000 "for directing profanity and threatening language to a fan."
(KUTV) — Utah Jazz player Donovan Mitchell tweeted out a response to controversy after visiting player Russell Westbrook confronted a fan for what he said was hate speech that included racial taunting. Mitchell said "We have to do better ... we will do better!"
The Utah Jazz banned the fan from all arena events effective immediately.
Westbrook was on the bench and stood when he heard a fan say he should "get down on my knees like I used to." Westbrook was caught on video saying on video he would "F*** them up," meaning the man and his wife. The fan said in a TV interview neither he nor his wife cursed at Westbrook and said he Westbrook should ice his knees.
Mitchell said he was personally hurt by the incident at the game and tweeted as part of a four paragraph response:
As a black man living in a community I love, and playing on a team that gives me the opportunity to live out my dreams, this incident hits close to home. Racism and hate speech hurts us all, and this is not the first time something like this has happened in our area.
"The Utah that I have come to love is welcoming and inclusive and last night's incident is not indicative of our fanbase."
Some of Westbrook's teammates, including Raymond Felton, confirmed that he heard the taunts.
"He's not coming off and talking to the fans, just saying stuff to them and just blurting out words," Felton said according to the Associated Press. "He's not. They're coming at him first. When is there going to be a point where there's going to be protecting those players? People can say whatever what they want to say us during games and yell out stuff and talk about our families and talk about our kids."
Mitchell thanked the Jazz and the NBA for "quickly responding to this hateful incident, and for helping to make our arena a place where all fans and players are welcome. He said:
I join other players in calling all teams to take a stand. We should not be subject to hate speech or racists acts at any time, and definitely not in our arenas.
The exchange happened early in the second quarter of a game the Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the Utah Jazz 98 to 89 on Monday night. Westbrook said verbal abuse has been directed from spectators at him family and said he will no longer tolerate it.
Westbrook finished with 23 points, 11 rebounds, and eight assists.
Video of Westbrook is below and contains hard language that may offend some readers. Video of the fan is not available.
The Utah Jazz released the following statement:
"The Utah Jazz and Larry H. Miller Group announced today a permanent ban of the fan who engaged in the inappropriate interaction with the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Russell Westbrook last night at Vivint Smart Home Arena. The ban is effective immediately and includes all arena events.
The organization conducted an investigation through video review and eyewitness accounts. The ban is based on excessive and derogatory verbal abuse directed at a player during the game that violated the NBA Code of Conduct.
The Utah Jazz will not tolerate fans who act inappropriately. There is no place in our game for personal attacks or disrespect.
“Everyone deserves the opportunity to enjoy and play the game in a safe, positive and inclusive environment,” said Steve Starks, president of the Utah Jazz. “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.”
The Utah Jazz code of conduct, on its website says:
The National Basketball Association and the Utah Jazz are committed to creating a safe, comfortable, and enjoyable sports & entertainment experience. NBA fans have a right to expect an environment where:
Players will respect and appreciate each and every fan.
Guests will be treated in a consistent, professional and courteous manner by all arena and team personnel.
Guests will enjoy the basketball experience free from disruptive behavior, including foul or abusive language or obscene gestures.
Guests will consume alcoholic beverages in a responsible manner. Intervention with an impaired, intoxicated or underage guest will be handled in a prompt and safe manner.
Guests will sit only in their ticketed seats and show their tickets when requested.
Guests will not engage in fighting, throwing objects or attempting to enter the court, and those who engage in any of these actions will immediately be ejected from the game.
Guests will smoke in designated smoking areas only.
There will not be any obscene or indecent messages on signs or clothing.
Guests will comply with requests from arena staff regarding arena operations and emergency response procedures.
The arena staff has been trained to intervene where necessary to help ensure that the above expectations are met, and guests are encouraged to report any inappropriate behavior to the nearest usher, security guard or guest services staff member. Guests who choose not to adhere to these provisions will be subject to ejection without refund and revocation of season tickets and may also be in violation of city ordinances resulting in possible arrest and prosecution.