SALT LAKE CITY — In Donovan Mitchell’s University of Louisville personal profile, Russell Westbrook was listed among his two favorite basketball players along with LeBron James.
Now, the Utah Jazz star is coming to his defense after Westbrook’s heated exchange with a fan at Vivint Arena on Monday night where the Oklahoma City Thunder star sparked a media firestorm.
“I am personally hurt by the incident at the game on March 11th,” Mitchell said in a statement to the Deseret News. “As a black man living in a community I love, and playing on a team that gives me the opportunity to live out my dreams, this incident hits close to home.
“Racism and hate speech hurts us all, and this is not the first time something like this has happened in our arena,” he continued. “The Utah that I have come to love is welcoming and inclusive and last night’s incident is not indicative of our fanbase. We don’t want to create a negative reputation for athletes who potentially may want to come to Utah.”
During the first half of the Jazz-Thunder game, Westbrook threatened heckling Jazz fan, Shane Keisel, after reportedly being told “to get down on your knees like you’re used to.” Keisel disputed that account in an interview with KSL-TV's Jeremiah Jensen.
“I swear ... I’ll (expletive) you up,” Westbrook responded angrily. “You and your wife. I’ll (expletive) you up.”
The Jazz organization issued a statement on the matter, expressing that they “are continuing to investigate the unfortunate exchange” and “if it is determined that any fans violated the NBA Code of Conduct, appropriate action will be taken.” The franchise is also discussing future adjustments to prevent situations like that from happening again but weren’t able to provide any updates to the Deseret News as of Tuesday afternoon.
However, Mitchell will continue to use his platform to try to create a change, specifically through his newly launched SpidaCares foundation, which was founded on March 7 — before International Women’s Day.
“I want to thank my team and the NBA for quickly responding to this hateful incident, and for helping to make our arena a place where all fans and players are welcome,” Mitchell said. “I join other players in calling for all teams to take a stand. We should not be subject to hate speech or racist acts at any time, and definitely not in our arenas.37 comments on this story
“Over the coming months I will work with the team, my teammates and the league to help make our arenas and our communities more inclusive and welcoming,” he added. “That includes bans on hate speech and racism.
“I don’t have all the answers, but this off-season I will work through my foundation, SPIDACARES to take a closer look at race issues across this country to see what I can do to help combat against racial inequality. I am asking all of you to join me in this process because when we all stand up and speak up, change happens.”