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In just a few minutes I want to unpack some of the discussions going on right now about reparations among the presidential candidates, but first I want to discuss something that happened very late last night in Utah with Russell Westbrook in an NBA game between the Thunder and Jazz.

First off, and I guess I’m hatin’ a little bit – ain’t no Jazz in Utah. They stole that name from New Orleans when the old ABA team there was the New Orleans Jazz – which made sense – but the Utah Jazz have the most gentrified name in all of sports. I just had to get that off my chest – because on several occasions in Utah fans have had direct encounters with Russell Westbrook that he and I both believe are racially motivated.

I’m not trying to play respectability politics here, but I need to say that Westbrook is not just one of the best players in the NBA, he’s one of the best people in the NBA – he’s a high character husband and father and has literally never been in trouble a day in his life. That said – last night some Utah Jazz fans – as they have done before – crossed several lines with Westbrook – and the NBA must do something about it. What got recorded, as it almost always does, was Westbrook’s response to the fans, in which he promised both a husband and a wife in the stands that he “would eff them both up” if they continued.

When asked about it after the game, Russ made something very clear, buying tickets to an NBA game is not a free pass for you to say whatever you wanna say to a player. It just isn’t. Several players from OKC said this belligerent fan, later identified as Shane Keisler, was talking about Russ’s wife, his kids, and was saying vulgar threats to Westbrook the entire game. It’s not OK.

It’s not just about getting under Russell Westbrook’s skin, he’s a human being. He’s a man. And just because you purchase tickets to a sporting event doesn’t give you permission, when you are 5 feet away from a player, to say anything you want to them – just because you know security will intervene before that player can do anything. It’s not OK. And I agree with Westbrook that the NBA is going to need to get some better policies in place to keep fans in check.  Last think I’ll say about this is I was able to see some of the tweets from this fan, Shane Keisler, before he deleted all of his social media accounts – and beyond just being a Trump supporter – he posted violent and vulgar threats against Westbrook on his Twitter account before. I’m going to be tracking this issue, but the NBA needs to step up.

Switching gears – I wanna weigh in on some of the conversations happening about reparations right now. First off, let me say that I believe in reparations. Not just because of hundreds of years of slavery, not just because millions and millions of people were taken from their homeland, but also because systemic oppression and bigotry and discrimination continued in this nation for the 150 years of Jim Crow and the New Jim Crow after that.

Please read the brilliant article from Ta-Nehisi Coates on reparations from just a few years back where he breaks all of this down. But I want to start from the position of how I support reparations.

And of course, reparations will be complicated. Everything this government does is complicated. Saying that something is complicated is not reason enough to oppose a thing. But a few weeks back, some of the presidential candidates were asked if they supported reparations – and it appears that a few of the candidates first said they did, then some kind of backed off and said they would support a commission exploring reparations.

And when Bernie Sanders was asked about it, he gave basically the same answer that Barack Obama gave during his presidency and the same answer that Hillary Clinton gave during her runs for President – in essence saying they weren’t sure how such a thing would ever be done.

So let me say I feel about it. First and foremost, I am generally skeptical of any politician who, when running for office, all of a sudden says they support something that that they have literally never supported a single day in their life. Listen – by the time you are running for the office of President of the United States, you are fully grown – if you have never supported something by this point in your life – you don’t actually support it – and saying you do now – is just politics in my opinion.

With that said, politics or not, I’m glad reparations are being discussed and debated because it really gets to the root of all of the direct harm that has been done to Black folk in this nation not just during slavery, but afterwards as well.


Shaun King: Fans Should Not Be Able To Abuse Players  was originally published on