A man has launched a lawsuit against the Utah Jazz and Houston Rockets’ star, Russell Westbrook, saying he was wrongfully issued a lifetime ban from the Vivint Smart Home Arena due to shouting alleged racist comments at Westbrook.
Attorneys for Shane Keisel filed the lawsuit on Monday arguing that Keisel’s behavior at March 11’s game was nothing out of the ordinary for a NBA crowd and that he and his girlfriend, Jennifer Huff, were victims of an “irate” Westbrook who unleashed a “tirade” on them, according to The Salt Lake Tribune. At the time, Westbrook played for the Oklahoma Thunder.
“Mr. Keisel’s heckling was of the same kind and caliber as that of the other audience members in the section,” the lawsuit, which was filed in 4th District Court, states.
READ MORE: André 3000 says no new music is coming
The lawsuit adds that Westbrook’s claims have caused Keisel and members of his family to be harassed and that he has had to change up his driving routes and install new locks and security cameras at his home. Keisel and Huff are asking for a public apology and a combined $100 million in damages for alleged defamation and causing emotional distress.
As a result of the incident, Keisel was banned from all Vivint Smart Home Arena events. Westbrook was seen in a viral video of the game shouting at Keisel and Huff but later said it was in response to Keisel telling him to “get down on your knees like you used to.”
In the lawsuit, Keisel says Westbrook misheard his comments and that Keisel actually told him to wrap his knees so that he will be able to play later in the game. In an interview after the game, Keisel told KSL that he thought the two were just trash talking until Westbrook got angry and started to curse and threaten him and Huff.
“The crowd was shocked by the ferocity of Mr. Westbrook’s outburst when he had only been told to take care of his knees, albeit in a mocking manner that implied he would need to use them extensively to ensure his team’s victory,” the lawsuit reads, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.
Westbrook said the comments were racist and fans lobbied for Keisel to lose his job, which he did. In the lawsuit, Keisel says the Jazz punished him based upon how Westbrook relayed the confrontation and didn’t take into consideration his side.
Frank Zang, senior vice president of communications for Larry H. Miller Sports and Entertainment, begged to differ and said the lawsuit’s claims against the Jazz are unfounded and would be “vigorously” fought, according to the newspaper.
After the March game, Westbrook told the media that Keisel crossed the line. “To me, that’s just completely disrespectful, to me, I think it’s racial, and I think it’s inappropriate,” Westbrook said according to the Salt Lake Tribune.
Westbrook was supported by Jazz players and the organization.
At another game following the incident, Jazz owner Gail Miller addressed fans.
“This should never happen. We are not a racist community,” Miller said, according to the newspaper. “We believe in treating people with courtesy and respect as human beings.”