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Kyrie Irving reacts to Russell Westbrook incident: ‘It happens so often’

Kyrie Irving on Thursday weighed in on the incident earlier this week involving a charged exchange between a Utah Jazz fan and Russell Westbrook, saying that these kind of things happen all the time and in many NBA arenas.

The Oklahoma City Thunder superstar was involved in a confrontation with a Jazz fan during Monday’s game at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Westbrook claimed the fan made racial taunts, something that was corroborated by others in the vicinity.

Westbrook was fined $25,000 by the NBA for his profane comments during the confrontation and the fan has been banned for life by the Jazz.

Irving observed that such incidents occur far more frequently than many assume, but the fact it was caught on video shines a light on the issue.

“It’s funny, man, it’s just funny,” Irving said with a laugh, as transcribed by NBC Sports Boston. “I’m sorry this is just — because it happens so often. Just most of the time it doesn’t get documented. This one is the first time it actually got caught on camera and you caught a player responding like that on camera and it’s no justification on either side, who’s right, who’s wrong, but at the same time we’re trying to protect the league that goes about being compassionate for the players, being compassionate for the fans.”

Irving went on to note how hecklers and the like refrain from engaging in “violently disrespectful” rhetoric away from the arenas, but was quick to point out that the kind of ugliness that played out in Salt Lake City Monday night happens everywhere.

“I’ve heard it all, man,” Irving said. “Utah, Phoenix, California, wherever you go, fans are going to be passionate about their teams but that’s just taking it too far. … I don’t really mind the fan interaction but not when I’m at work and you’re trying to get me to go because I would come to — let me come to your office and yell in your ear like that. That’s the same thing I value, it’s just the respect thing of the game and people’s professions.”

While the incident involving Westbrook — who has railed against fan conduct in the past — was unfortunate, it has inspired a dialogue regarding how the NBA needs to address the issue before something far worse happens.

In fact, the league has already acted amid the fallout of Monday’s incident.

What comes from said discussion regarding fan conduct remains to be seen, but at least the NBA is making an effort to address the issue. It also important to note that fans involved in such incidents are outliers, as most people attending NBA games don’t conduct themselves in such a manner.