Some people hate to see politics cross over into sports, and while I get that, in some cases it becomes unavoidable. If 2020 has indicated anything, it’s indicated that.
The events of this year have either spilled over into sports or called out to athletes, drawing them in, especially athletes of color, in such a strong manner that it required a response from them, particularly in regard to racial injustices in this country.
Nowhere is that more true than it’s been in Utah.
Becoming the leader that he now is, Donovan Mitchell has been as outspoken as any Jazz player, but he’s hardly been alone. The whole team has reflected the thoughts, feelings and emotions of an entire league, including everyone from Jordan Clarkson to Joe Ingles.
It’s enough to make you wonder how those Jazz players feel about Donald Trump winning Utah so decisively in the presidential election. We don’t have to wonder. They won’t see it as any kind of signal for social change or progress in the community in which and for which they play.
None of them wants to force anybody’s choice in one direction or another, given that voting according to one’s conscience is a privilege of American democracy. But if you were them, at the sight of Trump winning so big here, how would that go over with you and your family?
Not saying the president is a full-on racist, but there are those inside and outside of minority circles who strongly believe a vote for Trump is acceptance and reinforcement of the status quo, it’s a belief that regardless of other policies that may be positive or negative, depending on an individual’s point of view, elements of racism were not — are not — a deal breaker.
And that has to cut deep for athletes looking for significant change.
In my conversations with Jazz players, they seem to care about and feel connected to the people of Salt Lake City and of the communities statewide, filled as those cities are with fans who root so fervently for the Jazz. Compare the loyalty and passion of Jazz fans to that of fans in other NBA towns and, perhaps not in every case, but in many, what happens here runs deeper and is clearly more evident than in other arenas.
Vivint Arena is known across the league as one of the toughest places for opponents to play.
Jazz players notice and appreciate that, always have. And those fans deserve much credit for riding the competitive ups and downs with the team through so many years, dating back to the run-up in the early Stockton-and-Malone era. There have been no championships, just a whole lot of good basketball and some near-misses.
And maybe it will go on being that way, come what may.
There have been some cases of fans here so upset by the players', the team’s, the NBA’s involvement and support for racial-equality causes that they have sworn off the team. How pathetic. That’s always been a strange thing, considering almost none of the players have said this nation sucks, they’ve essentially said this nation is good, but can be and do better in the way people of color are treated, that this nation must be and do better.
What the hell’s wrong with that?
Can the voters of Utah not find empathy in it?
It’s a curious wonder how any reasonable person could be put off by calls for racial equality, for treating, for insisting on treating, every American the same regardless of the color of their skin. It’s confounding and baffling in this day and age, the way some citizens look for excuses to tear down a Black lives matter movement that has evolved broadly from a more radical, narrow view of an organization’s few founders to a wide swath of Americans who see and recognize the need for serious change.
I understand the history in this country, that progress has been slow through a long, sorry past in this regard, especially in less enlightened times.
Nobody’s been foolish enough to believe racism in all its forms could be eradicated overnight. But for many Black Americans, there’s been new hope for significant change, for a better tomorrow.
The overwhelming preference in this state for the status quo has to be a disappointment for athletes who are always hopeful, and calling out still.
GORDON MONSON hosts “The Big Show” with Jake Scott weekdays from 2-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM The Zone.