Jazz Owner Gail Miller Addresses Fans Before Game vs. Timberwolves: 'We Are Not a Racist Community'
Utah Jazz owner Gail Miller had a message for fans in the crowd ahead of the team's game against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Thursday night.
Speaking in light of Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook's verbal altercation with a fan on Monday, Miller told Thursday's attendees that such interactions "should never happen."
Westbrook was heard using profanity in a heated exchange with a heckler, responding to fans by saying, "I'll f--- you up. You and your wife." Westbrook said the incident started when a young man and his wife in the stands told [him] "to get down on my knees like you used to." Westbrook told reporters, "To me, that’s just completely disrespectful, to me, I think it’s racial, and I think it’s inappropriate and insensitive."
The fan who heckled Westbrook on Monday was permanently banned by the Jazz from all events at Vivint Smart Home Arena.
"I feel it's important to take this opportunity to express my thoughts and concerns about the unfortunate event that happened Monday night," Miller began. "I am extremely disappointed that one of our 'fans' conducted himself in such a way to offend not only a guest in our arena, but also me personally, my family, our organization, the community, our players and you, the best fans in the NBA. This should never happen. We are not a racist community. We believe in treating people with courtesy and respect as human beings."
Other members of the Utah community condemned Monday night's altercation by starting a fundraiser with the aim of raising $25,000 to be donated to the Human Rights Campaign.
“It is time to change the narrative on citizens of Utah, fans of the Jazz and those that call Utah 'home,’” Devin Deaton, a Jazz fan from Sandy, explained in the GoFundMe's description. “We are not a bunch of redneck, racist, bigots. Most of us are dads, moms, friends, hard-workers, kind-hearted, do right by each other, help our fellow man, good neighbors and welcoming to all.”
The $25,000 target is the same amount Westbrook was fined by the NBA for "directing profanity and threatening language to a fan."