Friday, 15 March 2019 21:31

'MATTer of Opinion' SPORTS COLUMN: Should we cut Russell Westbrook some slack?

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Russell Westbrook is one of the most exciting personalities in the NBA. Ever since he entered the association as the fourth pick in the 2008 draft, he has been nothing short of a must-watch player.

One of the reasons why I appreciate him so much is his hustle. If you really watch the NBA, and not just the highlights you'll see on social media, you can see that very few, if any, other players wear their heart on their sleeve like him.

By breaking Oscar Robertson's 1962 record of averaging a triple-double over the 2016-17 season, he essentially did the impossible — much like if someone were to break Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak. Despite that, Westbrook still has to deal with constant disrespect from all ends of the basketball spectrum, from fans to the media and everyone in between.

Westbrook has been in the news recently for something not relating to his game, however, as a video surfaced of the Thunder player from Monday night of him cursing at a couple during a road game against the Utah Jazz. Westbrook said postgame that "a young man and his wife in the stands told me to get down on my knees like you're used to."

Westbrook's anger to a comment like this is justified, and the mere fact that it happened represents a problem we have in the sports world — athletes being treated like zoo animals. We have this expectation that no matter what is said to an athlete from a spectator or fan, the athlete needs to take it and not respond, no matter what is said.

This is another tradition in sports that needs to evolve. 

Sure, I'm guilty (like many, many others) of heckling at sporting events myself, but I understand that there is a line when it comes to trash talking that shouldn't be crossed.

Looking back at it, I'm not ashamed of anything I've said at a game or towards a specific player. I also never came anywhere near to crossing that line that these fans in question did to Westbrook. He stated that the comments were "disrespectful" and "racial." I'm not sure if racial is the best description, but they absolutely were sexual in nature, not necessary and most certainly were disrespectful.

This isn't the first time Broadie has had this problem in his career. Granted, there have been times that he has been the bad guy in a situation. His recent mild interaction with a little kid during a national televised game in Denver was not a good look, and neither was him telling a man to "sit down" with his wife and "shut the f--- up." But fans yelling to him and flipping him off 10 feet away from his face isn't acceptable behavior either.

Westbrook has every right to not tolerate this nonsense. It annoys the life out of me how we can't appreciate a small-market superstar who hustles up and down the floor, takes pride in how he dresses and defends his fellow players. He is a family man who is a good face for this league.

When we go to sporting events, we need to realize that we are watching human beings play a sport they love to put food on the table for their families. If we can't have sensitivity and see that athletes have human emotions, we are going to be doomed as a society.