Fan sues Utah Jazz, Russell Westbrook for $68M over lifetime ban, seeks public apology
Fan Shane Keisel seeks $68M in damages
A Utah Jazz fan who received a lifetime ban from the team's home games following a verbal altercation with the NBA's Russell Westbrook filed a lawsuit in 4th District Court against the Salt Lake City franchise and the Houston Rockets star on Monday, according to a report.
Attorneys for the fan, identified as Shane Keisel, allege that he had engaged in standard heckling that was in line with other members of the crowd during the incident last March. The lawsuit claims that Westbrook, then a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder, responded with a "tirade" against Keisel and his girlfriend, Jennifer Huff, according to the Salt Lake Tribune, which obtained a copy of the filing.
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"The crowd was shocked by the ferocity of Mr. Westbrook’s outburst when he had only been told to take care of his knees," the lawsuit says.
Videos of Westbrook's altercation with Keisel went viral on social media last March. Westbrook was seen threatening Keisel and his girlfriend.
At the time, Westbrook said that Keisel had made racially charged remarks, telling him to "get down on your knees like you used to." After an investigation that included a video review and interviews with other fans and staffers who witnessed the event, the Jazz banned Keisel for life from events at Vivint Smart Home Arena, the team's home arena, for "excessive and derogatory verbal abuse directed at a player."
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The NBA also fined Westbrook $25,000 for his actions.
Keisel has maintained that his remarks were not racial in nature. The lawsuit seeks $68 million in damages for Keisel and $32 million for Huff, according to the Tribune. The couple also requested a public apology for the lifetime ban.
"We believe there is no legal or factual basis for these claims against the Utah Jazz," the team said in a statement to FOX Business. "The organization investigated the underlying incident and acted in an appropriate and responsible manner. We intend to vigorously defend the lawsuit."
Representatives for the Rockets did not immediately respond to a request for comment.