In March 2019, Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook engaged in a verbal altercation with a fan. Westbrook claims the fan shouted racial insults to him. The fan, Shane Keisel, says that he only mocked Westbrook’s bad knees.
The altercation, where Westbrook yelled at Keisel and Keisel’s wife, can be watched here:
The video does not show what Keisel did to enrage Westbrook, but the Jazz subsequently permanently banned Keisel from attending all home games. Keisel has now sued the Jazz and Westbrook, and is seeking $68 million in damages on claims of defamation and emotional distress. He claims that his statements were similar to those of others in his section and were not racial or derogatory.
The Jazz surely have the right to patrol the behavior of their fans and to ensure the safety of the players on the court, but they cannot arbitrarily ban fans who act similar to the others in the arena. The witnesses who observed Keisel’s heckling will be critical to determine what he said and whether it rose to the level of behavior that supports the Jazz banning him from all games. It will be interesting to see how the finder of fact rules if it finds that the fandid not make racial statements.
More information about this lawsuit can be found here.