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Former Jazz Center Olden Polynice On Russell Westbrook’s Altercation In Utah: I’m Not Surprised, I’m More Surprised Gail Miller Said Something

Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman

Back in March, Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder were in Utah to take on the Jazz at Vivint Smart Home Arena. The Thunder would beat the Jazz 98-89 sweeping the regular season series with the Jazz.  Instead of celebrating the victory that evening all everyone could talk about is the altercation between Westbrook and a fan and his wife in the stand. Westbrook can be heard and seen in a Twitter video by Deseret News’ Eric Woodyard yelling explicit language to someone in the crowd.

“I’ll f*ck you up. You and your wife,” he said in the Twitter video.

After the game, Russell Westbrook’s teammate Patrick Patterson shared what the fan and his wife yelled at Westbrook.

“Get down on your knees like your use to”


On March 12, after a morning shootaround Spurs guard, DeMar DeRozan spoke the media and was asked his thoughts on the altercation between Westbrook and the fan in Utah.

“I really can’t speak on it too much, because I don’t know exactly what happened,” DeRozan told me.“Knowing Russ personally, there’s a good reason he went off the way he did. He just wouldn’t do it for nothing. But I don’t know exactly what was said.”

DeMar DeRozan was not the NBA player to speak on the incident with Westbrook and the Jazz fan. Jazz star Donovan Mitchell also shared his thoughts about the altercation.

“I am personally hurt by the incident at the game on March 11th,” Mitchell said. “As a black man living in a community I love, and playing on a team that gives me the opportunity to live out my dreams, this incident hits close to home.

“Racism and hate speech hurts us all, and this is not the first time something like this has happened in our arena,” he continued. “The Utah that I have come to love is welcoming and inclusive and last night’s incident is not indicative of our fan base. We don’t want to create a negative reputation for athletes who potentially may want to come to Utah.”

Hall of Famer Kevin McHale weighed in on the altercation as well earlier this season.

“I haven’t read that much I was traveling here last night. So, I know he got into a beef with the fans. I think they suspended the fan from Utah. You hate to see that happen and fans something gets out of control. Evidently, the Jazz that he violated enough protocol that they throw him out, which is good. You pay your money and you can yell and scream, but at a certain point, that gets crossed. It’s no good,” McHale told me.

The Jazz released a press release stating that they have banned the fan for life.

This is not the first time Westbrook has had issues with fans in Utah. Last year during the playoffs, Russell was called a “boy” before Game 4 of the first-round playoff series against the Jazz.

Enter former Jazz center Olden Polynice, who played for the Jazz for two seasons from 1999-2001. During those two seasons, Polynice averaged 5.3 points, 5.1 rebounds, 0.45 assists, and 0.35 steals according to Basketball-Reference.com. Polynice was recently a guest on the Scoop B Radio Podcast with Brandon ‘Scoop B’ Robinson and they discussed numerous topics including the incident between Russell Westbrook and the banned Jazz fan.

“Typical! It was typical because I have seen it and I never liked it. That is why I tell people all the time unless I get a coaching job and then I have to go to Utah, but I have not stepped foot in Salt Lake City since I left in 2002. And I refuse because there is blatant racism and there is overt racism it is all there. If you look in the stand there are only like ten black people in the stands outside of the players,“ said Polynice.

He would continue:

“ You could literally count the people in the stands. Me and Bryon Russell used to sit on the bench and say let’s count black people and make a game of it. To me, I was not surprised by it, I was more surprised by Gail Miller response because it was the first time someone stepped. So, I was pleasantly surprised by that, so to me, it really hurt, I got called the N-word in Salt Lake City. One time knocked the guy out and lucky for me, there were police officers nearby that heard him say it, so nothing came of it. They actually arrested him afterward it use to happen all the time back then and that was before Donald Trump. Not everything is about Donald Trump this stuff was happening before him.  As for Russell Westbrook, I think he handled the situation pretty well outside of threatening the female.“

The Oklahoma City Thunder were eliminated in the first round by the Portland Trailblazers in five games.

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