Reports: Jazz issue lifetime ban to another fan
From NBA Twitter and media reports
The Utah Jazz have reportedly banned another fan for life from Vivint Smart Home Arena.
The ban comes three days after issuing their first such ban to a fan for similar actions. According to the The Deseret News‘ Eric Woodyard and The Salt Lake Tribune’s Eric Walden and Andy Larsen, the fan being banned is one who used a derogatory term in talking to Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook during the 2018 playoffs.
The video in question is one from the 2018 playoffs, in which the fan — who has not been identified by either newspaper or the team — called Westbrook “boy” before Game 4 of last year’s first-round series. In the video, Westbrook says “don’t call me boy,” and warned the fan before the fan said it again. Westbrook then flagged down security to handle the matter.
To Russell Westbrook’s defense, here is even further proof of his previous interactions with Utah Jazz fans. In this video, @russwest44 is called a “boy” by a Jazz fan ahead of Game 4 of OKC’s first-round playoff series against Utah on April 23, 2018 at Vivint Arena. pic.twitter.com/lc6slA7fTo
— Eric Woodyard (@E_Woodyard) March 13, 2019
Per Woodyard, the team conducted an investigation to track down the fan from the previously leaked video. Per Walden and Larsen, team president Steve Sarks told the newspaper that the Jazz would investigate prior violations and consider additional retroactive bans.
“We’ll need look into every situation if there’s video evidence, if its clear they’ve violated the Code of Conduct. We would review any of the situations,” Sarks told The Salt Lake Tribune. “One of the things that people may not realize is that the renovation allowed us to be more aware of what’s going on in the arena. We have a command center where we can see every seat in the arena, and we have video. It’s not to spy on people, but it’s to make sure that we’re taking care of guest service issues.”
The video came to light as the Jazz were investigating the actions of a fan identified as Shane Keisel on Monday. He was issued a lifetime ban on Wednesday after the Jazz determined that a viral video in which Westbrook threatened to beat up Keisel and his wife was brought on by Keisel directing racially-tinged comments at Westbrook in Monday’s game.
Westbrook was fined $25,000 for “directing profanity and threatening language to a fan.” In the video, which was posted to Twitter by The Deseret News, Westbrook is seen on the sideline near the Thunder bench saying “I’ll (bleep) you up, you and your wife.”
“The Utah Jazz will not tolerate fans who act inappropriately,” the Jazz said in a statement. “There is no place in our game for personal attacks or disrespect.”
Keisel, denied saying anything improper or profane. The Jazz did not name Keisel in their statement announcing the ban, and a phone number for him rang unanswered, The Associated Press reports.
Before Thursday’s Jazz-Timberwolves game at Vivint Smart Home Arena, Utah owner Gail Miller released a statement and spoke to the crowd to address the Westbrook-fan interaction from earlier in the week.
Miller, who has owned the Jazz for 34 years with her late husband Larry, implored the crowd to do better and said, “We are not a racist community” before a 120-100 win against Minnesota.
She implored fans to enjoy the competition and cheer the Jazz as loudly as ever but cautioned, “No one wins when respect goes away.”
Players from both teams listened intently and applauded the speech.
Per The Salt Lake Tribune, the Jazz periodically flashed a message across the arena’s screens last night which stated: ““No disruptive behavior. Obscene language or gestures, fighting, throwing objects, attempting to enter the court or interrupting play. Spectators engaging in such behavior are subject to ejection and other penalties, including a lifetime ban.”
Before last night’s game, Miller also sent an e-mail to fans, which spelled out what will not be tolerated going forward.
Email sent to Jazz fans today from Jazz owner Gail Miller. pic.twitter.com/y94cYEyQop
— Andy Larsen (@andyblarsen) March 14, 2019
Sarks expressed disgust to The Salt Lake Tribune over the incident in which Westbrook was called “boy” and called for fans to be vigilant in reporting other incidents they may see or hear.
“My reaction was a lot of disappointment, that one of our fans was using degrading language language, racist language. I was also disappointed that the people around the fan didn’t speak up in the moment,” Starks said, per the newspaper. “They’re two isolated events, but it illustrates we need to be proactive in addressing this.”
There is a fan code of conduct at all NBA games, including a part that says guests “will enjoy the basketball experience free from disruptive behavior, including foul or abusive language or obscene gestures.” Violators are dealt with on a case-by-case basis, and each team handles things its own way. At the Utah game Monday night, some fans were issued warning cards but allowed to return to their seats.
Westbrook has been upset about fans in Utah before. The Jazz eliminated the Thunder from last season’s playoffs, and as Westbrook walked off the floor immediately after that loss, he swiped at a fan who was taping him with his phone. Later that night, Westbrook described fans in Utah as “truly disrespectful.”
Westbrook and the Thunder have finished their season series with the Jazz. Unless the teams meet in the playoffs, the earliest he would play again in Salt Lake City is next October.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.