Russell Westbrook‘s run-in with Utah Jazz fans is NBA‘s latest public relations nightmare

By – – Tuesday, March 12, 2019

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

NBA commissioner Adam Silver has a problem, and it’s not, as he said last week, players depressed by social media.

It was America waking up Tuesday morning to a video of one of its star players telling a man and woman sitting in the stands of an NBA game that he would “f– you up. You and your wife. I’ll f– you up.”

For a league that took years to recover from the “Malice in the Palace,” when players went into the stands and attacked fans, the NBA can’t sit idly by as one of its stars threatens fans as if he was in a nightclub and someone bumped into him or looked at him the wrong way.

I don’t know what said to Oklahoma City’s during the game against the Utah Jazz Monday night in Salt Lake City. Amid revelations of racial insults on his social media account and other issues, the Jazz permanently banned on Tuesday.

The 45-year-old fan’s transgressions, however, don’t excuse .

Fans had no business throwing drinks at Ron Artest during the scuffle he was involved in with Ben Wallace in 2004. But no one in their right mind would argue that throwing drinks justified players going into the stands and fighting fans.

That incident has been called the worst night in the history of the NBA — though I would argue that the night Wizards forward Andray Blatche grabbed the microphone after a game and told fans he was their captain is right up there.

threatening a man and a woman with vulgar language is not physical assault. But it conjures up a horrible image the league cannot tolerate, and Silver needs to make that clear.

told reporters that yelled at him to “get down on your knees like you’re used to,” which took as a racially inappropriate insult. If indeed said that (he said in an interview he didn’t), is right. It is insulting and inappropriate.

But insults and taunts, no matter how loaded, cannot be answered with threats in a public setting where the league does its business. As the Jazz showed, there is a protocol for dealing with abusive fans.

Threatening to “f– you up” and then, really horrifically, threatening to do the same to someone’s wife ( said ’s wife repeated the taunts), is dangerously close to going into the stands and attacking customers.

’s loss of composure must have consequences — especially in light of the guard’s unapologetic explanation after the game.

“For me, I’m just not going to continue to take disrespect for my family,” said , who has a history of problems with Jazz fans. “I just think there’s got to be something done. There’s got to be some consequences for those type of people that come to the game just to say and do whatever they want to say. I don’t think it’s fair to the players — not just to me, but I don’t think it’s fair to the players.

“And if I had to do it again, I would say the same exact thing, because I truly will stand up for myself, for my family, for my kids, for my wife, for my mom, for my dad every single time,” said. “I expect anybody else to do the same. So that’s kind of where I’m at with the whole situation. As for beating up his wife, I have never put my hand on a woman; I never will. Never been in any domestic violence before. Never have before, but once he said the comment, his wife repeated the same thing to me as well. So that’s kind of how that started. I know you guys only got the tail end of the video, but the start of the video is way more important and way more disrespectful than what you guys heard.”

Standing up for his family, his wife, kids, mom and dad, is not threatening to “f–“ up a man and a woman up in full view of what has now turned out to be, thanks to the viral video, the whole country and the league’s international fans as well.

Is this the image the NBA wants?

told ESPN he did not say anything inappropriate to and it “started off as fun” with him yelling at to “ice those knees up!” After said that it was heat on his knees, said he yelled, “You’re going to need it.” said his wife, Jennifer Huff, didn’t say anything.

But it really doesn’t matter what or his wife said.

The NBA may have a fan problem in Utah that it needs to address, but first the league needs to make clear to players that threatening to physically hurt fans in NBA arenas is unacceptable, no matter the provocation.

⦁ Hear Thom Loverro on 106.7 The Fan Wednesday afternoons and Saturday and Sunday mornings and on the Kevin Sheehan Show podcast every Tuesday and Thursday.

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