Russell Westbrook says he can no longer tolerate ‘Westbrick’ nickname
Russell Westbrook’s wife – Nina Westbrook – called out Skip Bayless for blocking her on Twitter, which she saw his attempt to erase her from his reality so he’d feel better about frequently criticizing the Lakers guard. It was a fair criticism – except Bayless hadn’t actually blocked her, as she later acknowledged.
Still, Nina Westbrook used that as a jumping-off point into her other issues about how her husband and her family are being treated amid his difficult season:
You’ve got to stop calling people out of their name. You are very disrespectful and a bully. This is why so many young people think it’s okay to exhibit this type of behavior. Social media has become such heinous place because of people like you. My name is Westbrook.— Nina Westbrook (@ninawestbrook) March 4, 2022
NAME CALLING or STEREOTYPING: Giving a person or an idea a bad label by using an easy to remember pejorative name. This is used to make us reject and condemn a person or idea without examining what the label really means.— Nina Westbrook (@ninawestbrook) March 7, 2022
Criticism— Nina Westbrook (@ninawestbrook) March 7, 2022
the expression of disapproval of someone or something based on perceived faults or mistakes.
It’s very important to understand the difference between name calling and “telling one’s truth.” It’s even more important when you have a platform and a network to share your “truths” with millions of people. It requires a certain level of responsibility.— Nina Westbrook (@ninawestbrook) March 7, 2022
If you are a public figure, you have to be responsible for the type of example you set. Unfortunately, you must keep in mind the consequences of your behavior.— Nina Westbrook (@ninawestbrook) March 7, 2022
When you are a powerful person in todays socially driven society, you have to know that using certain derogatory words to describe another person (regardless of if it’s your “truth”) hold so much weight.— Nina Westbrook (@ninawestbrook) March 7, 2022
When I’m being harassed on a daily basis over basketball games, and I’m having obscenity’s and death wishes for me and my family sent my way because you’re expressing your “truth”, it’s hard for me to get on board with that.— Nina Westbrook (@ninawestbrook) March 7, 2022
My career is focused around encouraging and supporting others in living in their truth, finding their voice, and finding their peace. This is actually what I’m doing. My behavior aligns with someone who is speaking their truth.— Nina Westbrook (@ninawestbrook) March 7, 2022
I don’t do the things that I do to receive attention, to get clicks, or for show. This is not a game to me. Basketball is a game. This is my life, my children’s lives, and my families life. Shaming anyone for any reason is never the answer.— Nina Westbrook (@ninawestbrook) March 7, 2022
As far as my husband goes, he is his own person. I don’t need to defend him. I love and support him through all of the unwarranted hate and negativity that he receives. I speak up and share my experience and knowledge for those who do not have a voice.— Nina Westbrook (@ninawestbrook) March 7, 2022
My hope is that the amazing and talented players that come after him don’t have to be subjected to this type of shaming, name-calling, and public scrutiny for playing the game that they love.— Nina Westbrook (@ninawestbrook) March 7, 2022
After the Lakers’ loss to the Spurs last night, Russell Westbrook elaborated.
"I stand behind my wife with how she's feeling...it's reached a point where it's really weighing on my family." @russwest44 shares his thoughts on the comments made by his wife saying she and her family are "harassed on a daily basis". pic.twitter.com/ize5TLvVnb— Spectrum SportsNet (@SpectrumSN) March 8, 2022
Harassing Westbrook’s family, death threats, anything like that is completely over the line. It’s a shame Westbrook has faced such inappropriate behavior, and it shouldn’t be tolerated.
But getting so upset about the “Westbrick” nickname?
Yeah, it’s name-calling. No, it’s not kind.
But are name-calling and light mocking now completely out-of-bounds in professional sports? Remember, we’re not that far removed from Westbrook intimating Kevin Durant was a cupcake for changing teams as a free agent.
When people call Westbrook “Westbrick” they are generally referring only to him. Could people use that to mock his family? Of course. Those people are wrong. Family should be off-limits. But that doesn’t mean a fairly benign and fitting* nickname should be treated like a slur.
*Westbrook is shooting just 28% on 3-pointers this season.
It’s sad Westbrook no longer feels comfortable bringing his children to games. During this difficult season, he has talked about the joy of playing in his native Los Angeles, near family.
Westbrook has failed to adjust his game according to his limitations and surroundings. Through his own stubbornness, he has been a bigger detriment to the Lakers than necessary.
Both things can be true simultaneously.
It’s overly simplistic for Westbrook to characterize basketball as just a game. Yes, that’s important perspective. But fans’ passions drive Westbrook’s $44,211,146 salary. He earns that much money only because so many people are intensely interested in basketball. Of course, that doesn’t give fans the right to say and do whatever the want. But there are tradeoffs to being a public figure, especially one in the highly competitive environment of professional sports – let alone on the high-profile Los Angeles Lakers.
Westbrook has a $47,063,478 player option for next season. He could decline that, go somewhere else he feels more comfortable or even step away.
Of course, it’s not “just a game.” It’s his livelihood. Sacrificing so much money would be an extreme reaction to teasing.
The Westbrooks are free to give their opinions and try to shape the discourse. There’s value in them opening up about how they’re experiencing the criticism. As people view professional athletes like characters in a drama (or, in this case, maybe tragedy), it can be easy to forget they’re real people.
But that doesn’t mean fans and commentators must acquiesce and suddenly stop calling him “Westbrick.”