SALT LAKE CITY — A judge on Thursday dismissed a $100 million lawsuit against Utah Jazz and NBA player Russell Westbrook, alleging defamation and causing emotional distress.
The case stems from an verbal exchange in March 2019 between Shane Kaizel and Westbrook. During the game the Jazz hosted Oklahoma City. The controversy ended in the video and was heavily shared on social media, forcing Keisel to be banned for life from Vivint Arena, Westbrook fined, and a broader discussion of racism among jazz fans.
Two years later, it seems to have finally calmed down. At least that event
On the same day the court decided on the said case. Jazz released a statement saying they have banned three fans from the Vivint Arena indefinitely. After they blame family members of Memphis Grizzlies, defender Ja Morant.
Morant̵7;s father, Tee, told ESPN that he enjoys teasing and chatting in a friendly way. But these three fans crossed the line. He told global leaders that a fan made sexually explicit statements with his wife, Jamie. and another said “I’ll put a nickel on your back and watch you dance, boy.”
The Jazz released a statement that upon learning of the incident The stadium security system has banned all three fans.
“We apologize to everyone affected by this unfortunate incident and condemn the unacceptable behavior of fans. The Utah Jazz is committed to ensuring a safe and respectful environment,” a statement read.
Jazz owner Ryan Smith wrote a message to the Memphis Grizzlies and the Morant family, saying: “We are ashamed and sorry. The (Utah Jazz) has zero tolerance for inappropriate behavior. We are committed to creating a respectable competitive environment.”
Utah star defender Donovan Mitchell said on Twitter: “I’m glad these fans have been banned and they shouldn’t be allowed to come back….it’s nonsense!!! The fact that these words are being thrown around the players and their families is absurd enough, heck!”
The Morant family incident was one of the brawls from Wednesday’s NBA game that ended with fans kicked off the pitch and banned from the stadium – one of which took place in Philadelphia when Westbrook, now with the Washington Wizards, poured popcorn on him. head as he left the court
“In these arenas You have to start protecting the players. We’ll look at what the NBA does,” Westbrook said after the game – a statement reflecting some of the sentiments he shared two years ago in Utah.
“The Utah Jazz has no tolerance for aggressive or disruptive behavior. The incident took place last night involving a verbal brawl during Game 2. Arena security personnel intervened and an investigation resulted in the removal and indefinite bans of three Jazz fans. We apologize to everyone who were affected by this unfortunate incident and condemned the behavior of fans Utah Jazz is committed to creating a safe and respectful environment.”
– Utah Jazz Team Statement
After the game on March 11, 2019, Westbrook claimed that Keesel had told him. “Kneel down like you used to,” the claim was backed by written statements by other fans who were seated near Keisel, according to court documents.
A fan sitting in two rows in front of Keisel recorded Westbrook’s harassment and rude reaction to the comments and sent it to Keisel, according to court documents. Keisel passed it on to a friend in hopes of spreading the virus. Those hopes were given
Several national and local outlets picked up the video and it was widely shared on social media. After the game, Keisel participated in interviews with KSL TV and ESPN to discuss the encounter.
The incident, which Westbrook viewed as a racial charge. It led to a conversation about racism among jazz fans. and how fans should interact with players. after the investigation Jazz announced that the fan was banned after the incident. but never referred to Keisel’s name in the next home game. Then owner Gail Miller issued a statement warning fans to be better.
“My heartfelt request to all of you is from now on We will all take pride in holding ourselves and those around us the highest standards of decency,” she said.
Months later, Keisel and Jennifer Huff filed a lawsuit against Jazz and Westbrook.
On Thursday, 4th District Judge Derek Pullan ruled that although Jazz’s testimony never mentions Keisel or Huff, they could still be libelous because of the known context of the case. Comments
“Calling a person a racist – or implied – is an opinion that cannot be objectively verified as true or false,” the ruling said. “The weight of power on this issue is immense.”
The trial used the facts of the case to further illustrate this point. For example, fans who heard Keisel’s remarks to Westbrook were not aware of the statements as being racially charged. However, Westbrook did.
Westbrook shared those feelings with media members after the 2019 games.
“The young man and his wife in the stands told me ‘Kneel like you always do’ and for me that’s disrespectful. I think it’s a matter of race,” Westbrook said.
Those comments formed the basis of Keisel’s complaints against the former NBA All-Star.
However, the court ruled that those comments were not related to Keisel or Huff as they were unknown to Westbrook at the time.
“None of the listeners understood the reasonable statements made to Keisel and Huff, the only two thousand fans in the arena,” the parent said. “The only way a listener can identify Keisel or Huff as the ‘man and his wife’ whom Westbrook refers to is access to other sources that Westbrook has no control over.”
The court also noted that Like the words of Jazz Westbrook’s opinions are protected by the Opinion Privileges.
“We are satisfied with the verdict,” Jazz’s attorney, Jeff Hunt, said. “The court ruled Jazz in favor of all claims and ruled that the case had no legal or factual merit. Jazz properly enforces its fan code of conduct and will continue to do so.”