DeMarcus Cousins revealed that fans have directed numerous racial taunts at him throughout his career, including one instance when an individual said the N-word to the center.
"Oh, I've been called n-----," he said, according to Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes. "And it's crazy because this has happened to me on a few occasions. I reported it to the league, and, you know, I may have said whatever I said back and I was still punished for it.
"But obviously it became a bigger issue when it was Russ (Westbrook), and he was still fined for it. I don't really understand it. We're the product. We push this league, so I don't understand. When does our safety, when does it become important?"
League sources told Haynes that Cousins received racial insults in Sacramento, though Cousins refused to specify locations. The 28-year-old played with the Sacramento Kings for seven-and-a-half seasons before being traded to the Pelicans in 2017.
"I don't really want to (name cities or teams), because I'm not really trying to put a label on an entire fan base," Cousins said. "There are ignorant individuals in every city. I'll just put it like that. ... (The league) tells you to ignore it, or whatever the case may be, but how many times am I supposed to ignore that? Me coming from where I come from (Mobile, Alabama), they lucky all they got was a response."
Unwelcome fan interactions in the NBA have been in the spotlight recently after an incident between Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook and a Jazz fan in Utah earlier this month. Westbrook said the man directed a racially inappropriate remark at him while he was on the bench, resulting in a confrontation between the two captured on video.
Following an investigation, the Jazz banned the individual in question for life. Then the team gave the same punishment to a different fan who referred to Westbrook as "boy" in a playoff series last season.
The video of last month's incident with Westbrook went viral, and Cousins believes that was a key factor in fans being disciplined. He also referenced another infamous fan altercation involving Westbrook.
"I think it kind of went viral with the whole Russ thing," Cousins said. "I'm sure that played a part in it. He's had multiple instances in that same city. You even got the one clip of the guy flipping Russ off. Like, when does the game get that serious for a fan? Why are you that angry? This dude is literally out there putting a ball through a hoop. How do you get that angry?"