'We are not a racist community’: Jazz owner Gail Miller tells crowd she’s ‘extremely disappointed’ in fan’s actions toward Russell Westbrook
(Rick Bowmer | AP Photo) Gail Miller, owner and chairwoman of the Utah Jazz, addresses the crowd before an NBA basketball game against the Minnesota Timberwolves, Thursday, March 14, 2019, in Salt Lake City. Miller warned fans to not engage in inappropriate language with players. There was a recent incident involving a fan and a player from the Oklahoma Thunder where the fan has since been banned from Vivint Smart Home Arena.
As part of the Jazz’s ongoing efforts to change the behavior — and the reputation — of fans at Vivint Smart Home Arena, Jazz owner Gail Miller sent an email
to all of the fans on the Jazz’s mailing list, and then she delivered a 3-and-a-half minute address
on Thursday ahead of their matchup against the Minnesota Timberwolves
“I am extremely disappointed that one of our quote ‘fans’ conducted himself in such a way as to offend not only a guest in our arena, but also me personally, my family, our organization, the community, our players and you, as the best fans in the NBA,” Miller said in her address.
“This should never happen. We are not a racist community. We believe in treating people with courtesy and respect as human beings. From time to time, individual fans exhibit poor behavior and forget their manners and disrespect players on other teams. When that happens, I want you to jump up and shout ‘stop.’ We have a code of conduct in this arena. It will be strictly enforced.”
The email gives more detail as to what behavior violates the NBA’s Code of Conduct, and what fans should do in case of overhearing or witnessing transgressions.
“We do not permit hate speech, racism, sexism or homophobia. We also do not allow disruptive behavior, including bullying, foul or abusive language, or obscene gestures. Violators may be subject to ejection and other penalties, including a lifetime ban,” it continues. Fans who hear or witness inappropriate behavior should text the arena’s text line at 801-901-8111, the email says.
An email sent to season ticket holders says that those ticket owners are “accountable for whoever sits at (their) seats — whether (they’re) at the game or not,” and that the Jazz have the right to revoke the season tickets of seats in violation.
“When bad incidents like Monday night happen, it not only affects the player it’s directed at, it also affects our players. Other teams are not our enemies, they are our competition," Miller said. "Competition is a good thing. It allows players to showcase their talents, it allows fans to encourage, appreciate, cheer for, and enjoy those who share those talents with us.”
But as much as Miller seeks to prevent bad actors moving forward, she also wants to encourage Jazz fans to be passionate in a positive way at games.
“Now, let us be clear: we want you to be loud. You’re the reason we have the best home-court advantage in the league, and we want to keep it that way. We have a unique arena that provides the crowd with close proximity to the court and an increased ability to affect the game,” the email reads reads. “Players and coaches on both teams can hear you, and we expect all fans to respect them — as well as the game officials, arena employees, and other fans at the arena.”
“Use your energy cheering our team, with your honest, sincere enthusiasm, rather than degrading or demeaning players on the opposing team,” Miller said. “No one wins when respect goes away. Let’s keep a supporting atmosphere that our players know and deserve.”
Donovan Mitchell appreciated Miller’s statements.
“In this business, to have your owner to be so forward and so out there to back us the way she did, and to back Russell, that’s amazing. That’s the incredible thing about the NBA, as we all know all sports aren’t like that," Mitchell said. “She’s been been open and honest, and in my two years knowing her, that’s one of the things I respect. Everything you hear about the Miller family is nothing but positive, and this is just another instance of that.”