‘The Rundown’: A Utah Jazz star gets political

Your Monday morning Utah political cheat sheet

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A Jazz superstar gets political

Utah Jazz superstar Donovan Mitchell continues to use his platform as a high-profile athlete to push for social justice reforms. Last month The Tribune’s Andy Larsen detailed Mitchell’s efforts, including his concern about the moral panic surrounding the teaching of critical race theory that has gripped many Republican-controlled states.

On Friday, GQ magazine dug deeper into the political activism of several NBA players, including Donovan, and their efforts to focus their political activism into what Mitchell told the magazine would be “a solid plan to put together, all on the same page.”

Along with other players, coaches, and a few NBA owners, Mitchell is part of the new Social Justice Coalition, which aims to persuade congress and state legislatures to pass legislation on voting rights, police reform, and criminal justice reform. The coalition is also building “advocacy scaffolding” to teach athletes how to lobby policymakers effectively.

Don’t think this political activism is a passing fancy for Mitchell. Last year he wore a bulletproof vest covered with the names of people killed by police to a game during the COVID-proof NBA bubble.

Mitchell also told the magazine he’s ready to meet with Utah lawmakers to discuss their efforts to ban the teaching of critical race theory in Utah’s schools.

It will be fascinating to see if he can have an impact on Utah’s GOP-controlled Legislature. On the one hand, this is the same group that passed a resolution in the Utah House praising Mitchell after TNT’s Shaquille O’Neal dissed him on air. On the other, legislators seem hellbent on doing something about critical race theory next year.

I don’t expect Utah lawmakers to tell Mitchell to “shut up and dribble.”

Here’s what you need to know for Monday morning

Local news

  • Sen. Mitt Romney said Sunday he trusts President Joe Biden to keep his word on an infrastructure spending plan that he agreed to last week. Romney also said the 2020 election was “fair.” [Tribune]

  • Utah Democrats gave Jeff Merchant a second term as party chairman. [Tribune]

  • Prices are on the rise. Is it time for Utahns to panic about inflation? [Tribune]

National news

  • A bipartisan infrastructure deal is back on track after President Biden walked back his earlier position that the $1 trillion deal be coupled with a larger Democrat-backed bill. [AP]

  • The U.S. carried out airstrikes in Iraq and Syria. Pentagon officials said the targets were weapons storage facilities used by Iranian-backed militias. [NYT]

  • In a lengthy profile, former Attorney General William Barr called former President Trump’s claims that widespread election fraud was the reason he lost the 2020 election “bulls*it.” Barr also reportedly told Trump his team of lawyers pushing the false election fraud claims were a “clown show.” [The Atlantic]

  • Businesses in states that have cut back on enhanced pandemic unemployment benefits are still finding it hard to find workers to fill job openings. [NYT] But, that’s not the case everywhere as other states are seeing workers leave the unemployment rolls more quickly. [WSJ]

  • Prosecutors in New York have given the Trump Organization a Monday deadline to explain why it should not face criminal charges over its financial dealings. [WaPo]

  • Republicans are having a challenging time coming up with a coherent line of attack against President Joe Biden. [Politico]

  • Last summer, former President Trump wanted a “scorched-earth military campaign” to squash the racial justice protests that erupted following the murder of George Floyd. According to a new book, Trump erupted in anger when Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Trump his plan was not legal. [Axios]

  • Former Alaska Democratic Sen. Mike Gravel has died at the age of 91. [CNN]

  • Three years ago, an engineer warned of “major structural damage” in a Miami condominium complex that collapsed last week. At least nine people are confirmed dead, and hundreds are still missing. [NYT]

  • Three in 10 Americans believe the COVID-19 pandemic is over. [Gallup]

  • A spectator holding a sign caused a massive pileup in the Tour de France. [YouTube]

“Utah Politics” podcast

This week I speak with Drew Armstrong, the founder of “Dragon Dads,” a support group for fathers of transgender and non-binary children.

Armstrong talks about the effort to ban transgender athletes from girl’s sports in Utah.

We also dig into how he squares his role as a Republican delegate in Utah with the GOP-led attacks on transgender rights.

Download and listen to the episode here.

Monday morning’s Utah news roundup


  • Teen’s death highlights free-roaming dogs on Navajo Nation land. [Tribune]

  • ‘It’s life-giving’: Friar Tuck’s Barbershop provides style, peace and purpose. [Tribune]

  • Living Traditions Festival returns, bringing joy and reflection on 35th anniversary. [Tribune]

  • Ken Woolstenhulme, public servant and former mayor of Oakley, dies at 90. [Tribune]

  • Fireworks stands divided on if bans will slow sales. [Tribune]

  • Emergency alert system for missing adults exists, but Utah doesn’t use it. [KUTV]

  • Utah vendors say firework sales haven’t dipped despite drought. [Fox 13]

  • Do Utah licensing laws discriminate? Experts say many licenses are unnecessary. [KSL]


  • Utah COVID-19 cases and deaths see summer spike. [Tribune]


  • Are you late on a house payment or rent due to COVID-19? Here’s how to still get help. [Tribune]

  • Here’s why rent in Utah County has surged ahead of Salt Lake County. [Tribune]


  • Dixie State officials to reconsider polytechnic moniker. [DNews]

  • Former SLC School Board member now faces federal child pornography charges. [KUTV]

  • How high schoolers are making their schools more water-wise during historic drought. [KSL]


  • ‘Glamping’ development proposal near Moab is generating an uproar. [Tribune]

  • Early Utah wildfires point toward a season ‘for the record books’. [Tribune]

  • Historic drought across the West raises July 4 fireworks fears. [Tribune]

  • Crews fighting Utah fires get some help from cooler temps, more moisture in the air. [Tribune]

Local Government

  • Why Salt Lake City’s mayor just raised pay for police, and why she says some people won’t like it. [Deseret News]

  • Ogden officials keep busy responding to reports of water waste. [Standard Examiner]

  • Park City mayor says widespread confusion remains about contaminated soils facility. [Park Record]

On the Opinion Pages

  • George Pyle: Utah’s John Curtis offers Republicans a way to face climate change. [Tribune]

  • Robert Gehrke: Gondolas are sexier, but buses are a better cure for canyon jams. [Tribune]

  • The cost of allowing fireworks when the West faces record drought. [Deseret News]

— Tribune reporter Connor Sanders contributed to this report.