Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder praised star guard Donovan Mitchell for using his social media platform to push for social justice and cited some of the negative feedback as proof that significantly more progress must be made.
Mitchell expressed dismay about racist comments some fans posted in response to his Instagram post of an image that read “free-ish SINCE 1865” honoring Juneteenth, the holiday that commemorates the effective ending of slavery in the United States.
In a tweet hours later, Mitchell questioned how fans could cheer for players but be so openly against their push for social justice.
“There were a lot of positive comments surrounding Donovan’s post,” Snyder said during a video conference call Thursday with reporters. “That said, there were also some comments that were abominable and things that we all should never tolerate.
“To the extent you can rationalize some of those negative comments by saying there were positive comments, I think that’s a mistake. We all have to be that diligent, because as long as those comments are there, there’s work to be done.”
Snyder, who is part of the NBA coaches’ association’s committee on racial injustice and reform, kept the focus of the call on social justice issues. He said he would discuss basketball at a later date as the planned restart of the NBA season nears.
Snyder stressed the need for people to educate themselves on social justice issues. He used the example of participating in Salt Lake City’s Juneteenth event, marching along with his wife and four young children and listening to speeches.
“The road from complacency to complicity is a slippery slope,” Snyder said. “I think as we educate ourselves more and more, that complacency falls off and then it’s an opportunity to act.”
Utah is a unique NBA market in part because of its demographics. According to census data, 2.3% of the Salt Lake City population is African American.
The Jazz franchise has been proactive in recent years in dealing with its fan base’s reputation for being disrespectful to opponents, particularly Black players. The Jazz permanently banned a fan in March 2019 a day after a heated confrontation with Russell Westbrook that the then-Oklahoma City Thunder star considered “completely disrespectful” and “racial.” In a statement, the Jazz declared that “there is no place in our game for personal attacks or disrespect.”
Mitchell strongly backed Westbrook in a statement issued the day the fan was banned, writing in part that it was “not the first time something like this has happened in our arena” but that he had come to know Utah as “welcoming and inclusive” and that the “incident is not indicative of our fan base” as a whole.
With his social media posts last week, Mitchell again essentially challenged the Jazz fan base on issues regarding race.
“One of the things that’s been talked about a lot is that it’s OK to be uncomfortable,” Snyder said. “Donovan was certainly uncomfortable on some level. It takes courage to stand up for what you believe in, and to the extent that he made some other people and some of us uncomfortable, I think that’s a good thing.
“Part of I think the challenge with this is for us not to be defensive. Things that are said, it’s not always an accusatory statement. We don’t need to be defensive about what we hear. We need to process it, try to understand, because at that point, when we have a greater understanding we can have that dialogue and begin to find those ways that we can to unite.”