Berry Tramel covers the Oklahoma City Thunder for The Oklahoman. During a post-game interview after the Thunder beat the Warriors last Friday, in which Russell Westbrook had an excellent game, Westbrook proceeded to tell Tramel that he doesn’t like him as part of an ongoing feud between Westbrook and the local media in OKC:
(P.S. do NOT make a drinking game out of “drink every time Westbrook uses the word execute” because you will decline faster than Lindsay Lohan’s career).
Anyway – today, Tramel finally responded with a column titled “I’m not the only one Russell Westbrook doesn’t like,” which boiled down to Tramel writing that Westbrook doesn’t like ANYONE, including the fans by being so tight-lipped.
There was a period of time today when the article was pulled down due to “site issues,” but then re-posted with a key sentence from the end missing.
Here is the last paragraph:
Familiarity breeds contempt. I get that. But Friday night, in a game the Thunder desperately needed, Westbrook had a game for the ages. And he was mad at the world. Not just me. Mad at everybody. And when he no-answers The Oklahoman and the Thunder website and Channel 5 and The Sports Animal, he’s showing his complete disregard for fans. We’re not there to get our jollies. We’re there because we all have customers intensely interested in the Thunder. The people who buy tickets and the people who watch the games on television so that the Thunder can sell commercials and pay the bills.
When Russell Westbrook says “good execution” to every question, what he’s really saying to the fans is, “I don’t like you.”
And people noticed:
The @NewsOK column on Russell Westbrook is back online but w/ a diff ending.
— Baxter Holmes (@BaxterHolmes) January 19, 2015
— Thunderstuff (@tamglamvb) January 19, 2015
If you look at the comments on the article, you can see that they remained even after the article was pulled and then edited because a lot of them point out that the comment about the fans was out of line. That also was probably not a very PR-friendly sentence in terms of maintaining a relationship with the team.
There are a number of conspiricay theories floating around as to why that sentence disappeared. It’s interesting that Tramel’s closing line was removed for making a broad generalization about Westbrook, when other columnists (cough cough Dan Shaughnessy cough cough) are allowed to troll freely and unreasonably. It makes you wonder what the relationship is between the team and the paper.
Regardless of Westbrook’s true feelings for the fans, if he’s surly and disengaged in all interviews, it is hard to draw favorable conclusions about his demeanor without solid evidence. You might not agree with Tramel taking things that far, but it’s a bit disheartening when columnists are censored for expressing what ultimately turn out to be unpopular opinions just to preserve the eventual bottom line. The Oklahoman should answer for why Tramel’s closing remark was removed from the column.