The workplace harassment that takes place at sporting events from fans towards players has to stop, now.
And if anything is going to change, the NBA, the league that loves to parade itself as the most progressive in professional sports, has to be the one to lead the way.
On Monday night, Russell Westbrook was yet again in the middle of an altercation with a fan in Salt Lake City during a game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Utah Jazz. According to Westbrook, a fan named Shane Keisel and his wife yelled at him “to get down on your knees like you’re used to.” Westbrook’s teammate Raymond Felton backed up his story.
“I swear…. I’ll (expletive) you up,” said Westbrook to Keisel. “You and your wife. I’ll (expletive) you up.”
Westbrook explained what happened after the game. He’s had it with putting up with these types of antics from fans, as they continue to cross the line.
“I think it’s racial and I think it’s just inappropriate in a sense of there’s no protection for the players. I think there are a lot of great fans around the world who like to come to the game and enjoy the game,” he said.
“And there are people that come to the game to say mean, disrespectful things about me, my family. For many years, I’ve done all the right things, I’ve never done anything to hurt or harm anybody.”
Westbrook is fed up, and he should be.
A few weeks ago in Denver, he had to deal with a kid sitting courtside at the Thunder-Nuggets game that reached out and hit him on the arm, leading to him giving the kid and his father a verbal life lesson.
“So I told his dad, ‘Be careful, man, you can’t have your son just hitting random people.’ I don’t know him, he don’t know me. So, just letting him know, ‘You’ve just got to control your kids,” Westbrook explained.
And then there’s the fact that Monday’s night altercation took place in Salt Lake City, a place that’s notorious for having a racist fanbase that loves to pick on black players, especially Westbrook.
There was a previous situation in Utah, in which Westbrook swiped at a fan’s phone for recording him as he walked to the locker room after a playoff loss.
“The crowd is loud. They don’t care what they say to you,” Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant said about the fanbase in Utah in a story by the Deseret News on how rowdy Jazz fans have had multiple run-ins with NBA players over the years.
However, this past weekend proved that these player safety concerns aren’t just an American issue, and they aren’t always confined to harsh words and life lessons.
On Sunday, a Birmingham City fan rushed the field at St. Andrews and punched Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish in the back of the head. Security was nowhere near him. Another fan was arrested at Emirates Stadium in London after running on the field to push Manchester United’s Chris Smalling.
At some point, this has to stop.
Players are doing their part by physically restraining themselves in these situations.
And since it’s become quite apparent that adults, and kids, don’t know how to act at sporting events, it’s time that the leagues step in and put an end to this.
The ball is in Adam Silver’s court, and if he doesn’t want to deal with “Malice at the Palace 2.0,” he better come up with a plan to protect his players, sooner than later.