Twice on Saturday, Russell Westbrook encountered what he termed “vulgar … truly disrespectful” Utah fans. Headed into the locker room at halftime, and after the Jazz bounced his Oklahoma City Thunder from the NBA Playoffs, Westbrook noted taunts about his family.
On Tuesday morning, before the Golden State Warriors hosted the New Orleans Pelicans for game two of the Western Conference Semifinals, Draymond Green echoed Westbrook’s sentiments.
“I saw Russell’s comments. I heavily, strongly agree with them,” Green said. “I don’t mind fans coming to the game and cheering. At the end of the day, that’s how we make our salaries … But, to Russell’s point, some of the things people say, they wouldn’t say to me if I was just walking up the street. If they were standing face-to-face with me, they wouldn’t say that.”
Green — a noted provocateur in his own right — has had his own run-ins with fans, particularly during last year’s NBA Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers. During Game 3 of the Finals, Green’s mother, Mary Babers-Green, and a Cavaliers fan got into a verbal altercation, which turned physical, leading police to escort the fan out of Quicken Loans Arena. Green called the Cleveland fans “rude.” He stopped short of blaming in-arena security for not nipping conflicts like that in the bud.
“I think sometimes it lingers, just because of the fact that, yeah, you’re arena security, but you’re still a fan of that team. You’re not there 41 nights a year like, ‘Aw, I’m just here for a paycheck.’ You love that team, too, so you’re not trying to put your fans out, and that’s understandable,” Green said. “You want that home court advantage. You want to win just like anyone else does as a fan. Maybe it lingers on too long, but who cares. It is what it is. I go out there and play basketball.”
The next game, after fans lustily booed Green following a mistaken ejection caused by a technical foul mix-up, he taunted the fans again, saying “they don’t seem to be the sharpest people around.”
“My thing is, if you wouldn’t say that face-to-face with me, then don’t say it to me,” said the 6-foot-7, 230-pound power forward. “If you would say it face-to-face with me, then hey, do what you do. But, there should be consequences that come with that, and whatever that consequence is, it is what it is.”
Green’s mother is as outspoken on Twitter as her son is in the media, but, by virtue of her son, she is a public figure, and her real identity known. That’s not the case with fans in the stands, who can use anonymity — and the crowd itself — as a sort of shield.
“I just think, as on Twitter, as on Instagram, so many people hide behind a computer screen, and hide behind the fact that they know we can’t necessarily say this or do that,” Green said. “They hide behind and use it to their advantage. It’s the same thing in games. People know we can’t go in the stands. People know we almost can’t say anything back, without taking a hit in our pockets.”
In October, Boston Celtics guard Kyrie Irving was fined $25,000 by the NBA for a profanity directed towards a Philadelphia fan, after DeMarcus Cousins was assessed the same amount for a similar altercation.
“I think people use that to their advantage, and I think there’s a fine line in between supporting your team, and completely disrespecting someone’s life, or lives, for that matter,” Green said. “I think that we need to be closer to that line than we’re allowed to be. I think so many people teeter that line, whether they want to cross it or not, and we’re just kind of held here.”
That said, Green– who posted his fourth career playoff triple-double on Saturday in the series opener against the New Orleans Pelicans — is a big soccer fan and watching English Premier League soccer fans has put things into perspective.
“Those fans do a lot worse than what we see,” he said. “When you think about it in that aspect, I don’t ever really see anything that makes me think, ’Man, these fans are crazy!’ If anything, I try to just use it as fuel.”