A Utah Jazz fan who was banned from Vivint Smart Home Arena is suing NBA guard Russell Westbrook following an incident in March.
According to The Salt Lake Tribune, the fan is alleging that he was wrongly accused of shouting racist and derogatory remarks at the All-Star. Filing the lawsuit Monday in the 4th District Court, Shane Keisel said he only showed typical crowd behavior when he faced a “tirade” from an “irate” Westbrook.
“Mr. Keisel’s heckling was of the same kind and caliber as that of the other audience members in the section,” the lawsuit states.
Westbrook, who was playing for the Oklahoma City Thunder at the time, was caught on cellphone camera as he was responding to Keisel and his girlfriend, Jennifer Huff.
“I’ll f**k him up. I promise you. I promise you. I’ll f**k you up," the 31-year-old athlete was heard saying in the video. "You and your wife. I’ll f**k you up.”
Things get heated between Russell Westbrook and Utah Jazz fans again. “I’ll f*ck you up. You and your wife,” he says. Not sure what these fans said to him, but he also had issues with Jazz fans during the postseason. pic.twitter.com/LquwRmLVNy— Eric Woodyard (@E_Woodyard) March 12, 2019
The guard later explained the situation to reporters, saying the fan told him to “get down on your knees like you used to.”
“For me, that’s completely disrespectful. To me, I think it’s racial and inappropriate," the 31-year-old guard said. "There are a lot of great fans around the world that like to come to the game to enjoy the game, [and] there are people who come to the game to say mean and disrespectful things about me and my family.”
Keisel, however, alleges that he was telling the NBA veteran to wrap his knees so he can play later.
“The crowd was shocked by the ferocity of Mr. Westbrook’s outburst when he had only been told to take care of his knees, albeit in a mocking manner that implied he would need to use them extensively to ensure his team’s victory,” the lawsuit states.
According to the Desert News, Keisel alleges that he lost his job because of the incident and received death threats.
The Jazz responded to Keisel's allegations in a statement, saying "the lawsuit is legally and factually baseless," according to the Washington Post
“The organization investigated the underlying incident and acted in an appropriate and responsible manner," the team said. "We intend to vigorously defend the lawsuit.”
While the Jazz banned the fan from the arena the next day, the NBA fined Westbrook $25,000 for “directing profanity and threatening language” at fans.
"The Utah Jazz will not tolerate fans who act inappropriately," the organization said after issuing the ban. "There is no place in our game for personal attacks or disrespect.”
The fan is asking for $100 million in compensatory and punitive damages, alleging defamation and infliction of emotional distress, The Washington Post reported.
Westbrook had another incident in Utah last year when he swiped at a fan who was recording the point guard as he was walking off the court.
“For many years, I’ve done all the right things,” he said to reporters. “I’ve never done anything to hurt or harm anybody. I’ve never been in any trouble or fought a fan. Been in the league 11 years: clean slate. Humble. I take all the criticism from everybody. I’ve been doing the same thing for years. For me, disrespect will not be taken.”