SALT LAKE CITY – No matter how hard the entirety of the Utah Jazz tries, from ownership down to every employee in a leadership position, the same stereotypes apparently continue to shadow the organization.
By now, all of us can recite by memory verse and chapter of the perceptions that burn like a trick candle on a birthday cake. As the tired story goes, African Americans don’t like playing basketball for the Jazz and eventually will leave.
Add ESPN radio host Bart Scott to the list of detractors. Speaking about Donovan Mitchell’s future in Utah, the former NFL player referenced the negative interaction Ja Morant’s father had with a few fans during the first round of this season’s playoffs.
Scott’s comments on his midday show came in response to a recent ESPN report stating new part-owner Dwyane Wade is “seriously concerned” about Mitchell’s desire to stay in Utah long term. The 24-year-old star last offseason signed a max five-year contract potentially worth $195 million, at least theoretically keeping him put for a while.
“Nobody wants to go to Utah,” Scott said. “The fact that the relationships outside of the court is not good for black people to live in Utah. The fact that he watched the true feelings and true sentiments of the people speaking to Ja Morant’s father is what bothers (Mitchell).
“The fact that they put on a happy face for him, but their true feelings come out when African Americans come there to play is what I think is the issue and the problem that will ultimately let him say, ‘You know what, I’m done here. Thank you, get me out of here.’ “
There you have it, so say Scott and sources. Not stopping with Mitchell, Scott went on to speculate that Wade could want to relinquish his stake in Jazz ownership if the team doesn’t have a star player.
Talk about a few bad apples spoiling the whole bunch. Including the Miller family and now Ryan Smith, the two ownership groups have gone to great lengths to eradicate boorish fan behavior during home games and make the team attractive for players of all backgrounds.
Less than one year into his regime, Smith established a college scholarship program for minority students coinciding with each Jazz win. More programs are likely to come, hopefully along the way shattering long-held beliefs outside the community.
For his part, Mitchell has entrenched himself in the community in addition to progressing to the level of true stardom as a player. He’s also been outspoken on various social issues, at least deserving of some respect for his willingness to take a stand.
In time, when he approaches free agency, Mitchell will show his commitment to the franchise. For now, no one can doubt his strong desire to bring the Jazz its first championship.
“Donovan Mitchell is fine. Utah’s fine,” broadcaster Colin Cowherd recently said on his daily sports show aired on Fox television and radio.
Cowherd, who frequently vacations in the state, points to the organization’s impressive record of success and stability over several decades. He would reject Scott’s assertions and believes in time the Jazz will break through with a championship.
“There’s always been this theory that a lot of stars don’t want to play in Utah, and I’ve always kind of rolled my eyes at it,” Cowherd said. “Utah’s like Gonzaga basketball – they’ve been good forever and they’ve been damn close to winning. If there’s no Michael Jordan, the Utah Jazz would have two championships.”
“Utah’s well run, exceptionally well run,” he continued. “For years it was exceptionally well owned. Great coaches, great scouting, great players. I don’t want to hear that nobody wants to play in Utah.”