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In a legal victory for NBA star Russell Westbrook, the Utah Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of a defamation lawsuit filed by Shane Keisel, a Jazz fan, and his wife, Jennifer Huff, as reported by Michael McCann of Sportico.

The litigation originated from a heated exchange during a game at the Delta Center in 2019 when Westbrook, then with the Oklahoma City Thunder, and Keisel exchanged words.

The court ruled that suggesting Keisel made a racist remark is protected speech as an opinion, not grounds for defamation.

The exact wording of the exchange remains disputed, with Keisel claiming he made innocuous comments about Westbrook’s knees, while others recalled offensive and possibly sexual remarks.

Despite the Jazz banning Keisel for violating the code of conduct, the court found no evidence of racism or homophobia and emphasized the context of the exchange during a professional sporting event.

Westbrook’s threat to Keisel was considered a profane outburst, but the court noted it occurred in an environment where intemperate behavior is expected, and security personnel were present.

The court also addressed statements by then-owner Gail Miller, emphasizing that expressing opinions about Keisel’s earlier statements is constitutionally protected.