BOSTON -- The incident involving Russell Westbrook and a Utah Jazz fan continues to be a hot topic of discussion in NBA circles.
The NBA fined Westbrook $25,000 for his role in the incident while the Jazz have banned the fan, Shane Keisel, after video evidence and the accounts of eyewitnesses confirmed Westbrook’s version of what happened.
In addition to being one of the Celtics’ top players, Boston’s Jaylen Brown is also Vice President of the National Basketball Players Association.
The balancing act between fan-player interaction is among the issues the NBPA and the NBA are examining how to improve.
“As an NBA player, it’s our responsibility to represent our families, our team; we have to handle ourselves a certain way but we’re humans, individuals as well,” Brown told NBC Sports Boston. “If someone says something past the border, they should be held accountable as well; it goes both ways."
Brown added, “Interaction . . . it should be friendly. It should never cross the line, and there are some fans today that cross that line. They feel they’re in a world where they can’t be touched.”
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Celtics coach Brad Stevens wasn’t sure of the particulars surrounding the Westbrook incident, but said most of the interactions with fans and players that he has been around are “very light-hearted and don’t cross the line. But there are some that have.”
Stevens added, “I feel for the guys because they are right there. We talk about how close fans are to benches, it’s even more so in the NBA. I don’t go down to the end of the bench often, but there are times when people are literally sitting on the end of your bench.”
Boston’s Jayson Tatum had seen video of the Westbrook incident, describing it as “unfortunate.”
He added, “we appreciate the fans support, but sometimes they get carried away.”
After seeing video of the Westbrook incident, Tatum believes that particular Utah Jazz fan went too far with his comments directed at Westbrook that, according to Westbrook, included him telling him to get down on his knees “like you used to.”
“People always expect us to turn the shoulder,” said Tatum, who added, “‘we get paid all this money so we should let them talk to us any way and that’s not true. For the most part, we do a good job . . . what that person said (to Westbrook) was out of line and very disrespectful.”
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And that’s ultimately what this is comes down to: respect.
In this particular instance, Westbrook felt the words of Keisel were disrespectful — and apparently the Jazz agreed, which is why they banned him from the arena for all basketball and non-basketball events.
And in an effort by Utah Jazz fans to distance themselves from Keisel, a GoFundMe campaign aimed at raising $25,000 — equal to Westbrook’s fine — to go towards the Human Rights Campaign.
“It is time to change the narrative on citizens of Utah, fans of the Jazz and those that call Utah 'home',” read a statement on the GoFundMe page, which as of the time of this article, had raised $7,120. “We are not a bunch of redneck, racist, bigots. Most of us are dads, moms, friends, hard-workers, kind-hearted, do right by each other, help our fellow man, good neighbors and welcoming to all.”
Brown said he tends to ignore that kind of stuff, but “everybody is different."
He added, “For me, I brush them under the rug; everybody doesn’t have that M.L.K. (Martin Luther King Jr.) approach. Someone else might want to get vigilant or angry if you say something disrespectful. Everybody has to govern themselves responsibly and treat others the way you want to be treated at the end of the day.”
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