Teammates of Russell Westbrook want to make it clear — the former NBA MVP and point guard for the Oklahoma City Thunder is the constant target of abuse like he took on Monday night in Utah during a game against the Jazz.
Westbrook was at the center of an ugly incident in which the Thunder star lashed out at a Jazz fan who he claimed to say hurtful things. The fan denied that in an interview after the incident, but Patrick Patterson backed up his teammate after the game. Westbrook also explained why he lashed out at the fans, explaining that he’d do it again.
And another Thunder teammate, Raymond Felton, knew verbatim what Westbrook and Patterson claimed the fan said. After the game, Felton called it “not right” that the fan was allowed to say things like “to get down on my knees like you’re used to.”
““I’m going to speak on this,” Felton began. “And I want everyone in here to really tune into this and understand.”
He then explained that Westbrook is a constant target for fans in opposing arenas, something he’s long stood by silently and watched happen.
“This ain’t the first game it happened. It happened in Portland. It happens in pretty much every game, they picking on Russ. It’s not right. It’s not fair to tell a man to get on his knees. ‘That’s what you’re used to doing.’ He turns around, his wife reiterates it, he says it back to him again.”
Felton said that, though Russ may have responded with a vulgar threat, the focus needs to be on what started the incident in the first place.
“Then everybody wants to make a big deal out of what (Westbrook) said. Let’s talk about what he said to him first,” Felton said. “He’s not coming off and just talking to the fans, saying stuff to them. He’s not. They’re coming at him first.”
Felton wondered when the NBA or individual teams would do more to protect players from incidents like these.
“When’s it going to be the point where they’re protecting us players?” he asked. “People can say whatever they want to us during games, yelling at us, talking about our families, talking about our kids. We got kids. We’re fathers, we have families and people can just blurt out what they want to say about us.”
The veteran also blamed security nearby, who did not say anything to the heckler before the incident. It’s clear that Thunder players are upset about the incident, which the Jazz say they are investigating as of early Tuesday morning. There will almost certainly be some sort of policy changes or punishment for those involved in the incident on Monday, but for Westbrook and the Thunder those changes did not come soon enough.