Utah Jazz Fans Aim to Raise $25,000 for Charity After Russell Westbrook Incident
"We are not a bunch of redneck, racist, bigots," the GoFundMe says
The Utah Jazz community is rallying to do some good in the wake of a nasty incident during a recent game that saw a fan allegedly shout racially charged taunts at Oklahoma City Thunder player Russell Westbrook.
During a matchup between the Thunder and Jazz in Utah on March 11, a viral video showed Westbrook getting into a heated verbal altercation with a fan who he said was heckling him as he sat on the bench.
“Yo player, I swear to god, I swear to God, you and your wife? I’ll f— you up,” Westbrook was heard saying in the footage. “I promise you. Everything I love, I promise you. I swear to god.”
“I’ll tell you one thing: I’ll f— him up,” Westbrook told a security guard who was nearby. “I promise you. I promise you.”
After the game, the 30-year-old NBA star was questioned about the exchange and told reporters that the fan told him to “get down on my knees like I used to,” which he felt was “completely disrespectful” and a “racial attack” on him and his family.
“If I had to do it over again, I would say the same exact thing,” Westbrook said in a statement reported by The Salt Lake Tribune. “I truly will stand up for myself and my family and my wife and my mom and my dad every single time. I expect anybody else to do the same.”
He added: “Throughout the whole game — since I’ve been here, especially here in Utah, every time I come here, a lot of disrespectful things are said. For me, I’m just not going to continue to take disrespect for my family.”
The fan claimed that he thought he was having “fun” with Westbrook by yelling to “ice those knees” up, noting, “I never said a single swear word to him, not one. Initially, I was like, ‘Oh, I’m talking with Westbrook, the guy is one of the greats.’ But he’s also classless.”
The day after the incident, Jazz fan Devin Deaton wanted to prove that the allegedly racially charged altercation was not a reflection on the rest of the franchise’s community, so he started a GoFundMe campaign to “change the narrative on the citizens of Utah, fans of the Jazz and those that call Utah ‘home.’ ”
“Jazz fans are not bigots,” Deaton wrote on the page’s description. “Jazz fans are not racist. Jazz fans are loyal to the Utah Jazz. In light of recent events between Russell Westbrook & a few outlying Jazz fans, I am calling for the true, loyal, welcoming & kind Utah Jazz fans to show our true colors.”
The campaign, dubbed #HumaneJazzFans, aims to match the $25,0000 fine Westbrook given and has so far raised more than $14,000 as of Friday morning. The money will be donated to the Human Rights Campaign.
“We are not a bunch of redneck, racist, bigots,” Deaton wrote. “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.”
The Jazz fan who harassed Westbrook, identified as Shane Keisel, was banned from the arena for life, the team announced on Tuesday.
“Everyone deserves the opportunity to enjoy and play the game in a safe, positive and inclusive environment,” the Jazz said in a statement posted to Twitter. “Offensive and abusive behavior does not reflect the values of the Miller family, our organization and the community.”