Utah Jazz’s Rudy Gobert apologizes for ‘careless’ behavior, as teammate Donovan Mitchell confirms he has tested positive for COVID-19

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (45) and Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) speak as the Utah Jazz host the Miami Heat in their NBA basketball game at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2020.

Editor’s note: The Tribune is providing readers free access to critical local stories about the coronavirus during this time of heightened concern. See more coverage here.

A day after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert became the first athlete in a North American-based sports league to test positive for the COVID-19 disease, the All-Star center addressed his diagnosis on Instagram, taking the opportunity to also express regret in the wake of teammate Donovan Mitchell also testing positive.

“I would like to publicly apologize to the people that I may have endangered,” Gobert wrote in an Instagram post. “At the time, I had no idea I was even infected. I was careless and make no excuse. I hope my story serves as a warning and causes everyone to take this seriously.”

The Jazz organization said in a Thursday morning statement that after Gobert’s positive test earlier Wednesday, subsequent tests were administered to the Jazz traveling party (including coaches, broadcasters, and media), as well as to Thunder personnel, later that night for coronavirus, with one positive diagnosis.

“As a follow-up to yesterday’s positive COVID-19 test, Oklahoma health officials tested all members of the Utah Jazz traveling party, confirming one additional positive outcome for a Jazz player,” the club said in its news release. “We are working closely with the CDC, Oklahoma and Utah state officials, and the NBA to monitor their health and determine the best path moving forward.”

While the organization did not mention Mitchell by name, the All-Star guard confirmed his diagnosis in an Instagram post late Thursday morning.

“We are all learning more about the seriousness of this situation and hopefully people can continue to educate themselves and realize that they need to behave responsibly both for their own health and for the well being of those around them,” Mitchell wrote, in part.

Gobert’s post, which followed Mitchell’s by a few hours, came in the wake of a report from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski citing unnamed Jazz players as being angry with Gobert for being “careless in the locker room touching other players and their belongings.” Late Thursday, Yahoo’s Chris Haynes reported that the league will not fine or suspend Gobert for his actions before Wednesday’s positive test result.

The NBA suspended the season on Wednesday night on account of Gobert’s positive test. The league is presently on hiatus, with the Board of Governors convening via conference call to address the specifics of the remainder of the season.

On Thursday afternoon, Gobert Larry H. Miller Sports & Entertainment CEO Steve Starks, who spoke as part of Utah Gov. Gary Herbert’s Thursday afternoon news conference to update the coronavirus situation. Starks said that the Jazz had been in “constant and proactive contact with the NBA.” He added that none of the players had shown any symptoms of the COVID-19 disease until they arrived in Oklahoma City on Tuesday.

“This is an unprecedented time, and the situation is fluid and fast-moving,” he said. “Despite that, and of paramount importance are the safety and well-being of our Jazz players, their families, our employees, and the media who cover our team, and certainly the fans and many guests who come to our venues.”

Starks added that “our players and team personnel — with the exception of the two players who have tested positive for the virus — are currently en route back to Utah.”

Starks also said that Jazz and Vivint Smart Home Arena employees had been asked to stay away from the team’s facilities until a deep clean can be done, though he added that none have been asked to self-quarantine.

Upon arriving back in Utah, the other Jazz players began taking to social media to share their thanks to those who had inquired about his well-being, and to offer messages of support for their teammates.

Emmanuel Mudiay, who famously was one of two players along with Gobert listed as out for Wednesday’s game due to “illness,” said his COVID-19 test “came out negative.”

“Appreciate all the love and support. I’m good and okay. Everybody make sure you stay safe and take care of yourself,” wrote Royce O’Neale. “We here for you guy @spidadmitchell and @rudygobert healthy recovery for you guys.”

“Let’s continue to make our environment safe with the knowledge that we have and keep supporting and sending love to our guys [Mitchell] and [Gobert],” wrote Georges Niang.

“Keeping my teammates [Mitchell] and [Gobert] in my heart as they get better going through this process!” added Jordan Clarkson.

Upon arriving back in Utah Thursday afternoon, the team met with Dr. Angela Dunn, the state epidemiologist for the Utah Department of Health, who provided instructions on how to safely and comfortably engage with their families and communities.

“The families and loved ones of Jazz players who have not had close contact with the two positive cases pose absolutely no risk to the general public,” Dunn said in a news release. “We have provided them with all the essential information and recommendations. The Utah Jazz are an important part of our community, and we appreciate their willingness to follow our advice and their desire to do what is best for Utah citizens.”

All five teams the Jazz have faced in the month of March — the Cavaliers, Knicks, Celtics, Pistons, and Raptors — have advised their respective players and travel parties to self-quarantine through the weekend. The Celtics said in a statement they had been advised by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health that “it is unlikely that anyone from the team came into contact with [Gobert and Mitchell] while they were contagious.”

The NBA’s Board of Governors held a conference call on Thursday around 3:30 p.m. ET to discuss the status of the league’s hiatus. Multiple reports stated that the league subsequently notified all 30 teams that players are advised to remain in their home markets, stay home as much as possible, and that teams are not allowed to hold group practices, workouts, or meetings through at least this coming Monday.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver subsequently appeared on TNT’s “Inside the NBA” to discuss the plan going forward.

“What we determined today is that this hiatus will be most likely at least 30 days. And we don’t know enough to be more specific than that,” he said. “But we wanted to give direction to our players and teams and fans that this is going to be roughly at least a month.”

Asked by host Ernie Johnson if the season was potentially over, Silver didn’t hesitate.

“Of course it’s possible,” he said. “I just don’t know more at this point.”