Utah Jazz owner Gail Miller addressed the crowd from the court prior to her team’s game against the Minnesota Timberwolves in response to Monday night’s incident in which a fan and Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook got into a verbal dispute.
“I am extremely disappointed that one of our quote fans’ conducted himself in such a way as to offend not only a guest in our arena, but also me personally, my family, our organization, the community, our players and you, as the best fans in the NBA,” Miller said as part of a speech that lasted a couple of minutes.
“This should never happen. We are not a racist community. We believe in treating people with courtesy and respect as human beings.”
In Monday night’s incident, Westbrook and the fan, identified as Shane Keisel, exchanged harsh words. Westbrook said after the game that he was the victim of a disrespectful comment that he took as a racial slur.
The Jazz said they conducted an investigation through video and eyewitness accounts and Keisel’s ban was based on “excessive and derogatory verbal abuse directed at a player” that serves as a violation of the NBA Code of Conduct.
Earlier on Thursday, the NBA reportedly asked each of its 30 teams to create a public service announcement that would remind their fans of the need for respectful behaviour.
The Athletic reported that the league office sent a memo to the teams, requesting them to stress “importance of respect and civility in NBA arenas”.
“Everyone deserves the opportunity to enjoy and play the game in a safe, positive and inclusive environment,” Jazz president Steve Starks said in a statement. “Offensive and abusive behaviour does not reflect the values of the Miller (ownership) family, our organisation and the community.
“We all have a responsibility to respect the game of basketball and, more importantly, each other as human beings. This has always been a hallmark of our incredible fan base and should forever be our standard moving forward.”
Last week, New York Knicks owner James Dolan banned a fan from Madison Square Garden. The fan told Dolan to “sell the team,” which the owner later said was part of a staged “ambush” aimed at setting up, and recording, a video of an angry Dolan to sell to TMZ.