Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder urges action on racial and social reform: ‘The road from complacency to complicity is a slippery slope’

In his first comments to local media since the NBA season was suspended the night of March 11, Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder started off by saying, “I think we’ll have a lot of time next week to talk about basketball.”

In Thursday afternoon’s Zoom call, he wanted to discuss the racial and social justice movements going on around the country. He wanted to discuss the roles that Jazz players have had in those issues, from Donovan Mitchell’s constant presence on social media, to Jordan Clarkson marching in a peaceful protest in Los Angeles. He wanted to discuss people having the courage to be uncomfortable, to educate themselves, to realize that even if they are not Black, that doesn’t mean they should detach themselves from the situation.

“The road from complacency to complicity is a slippery slope,” Snyder said in a particularly eloquent moment.

He didn’t completely ignore the hoops, of course.

Snyder acknowledged that he feels good about the team, that all the Jazz’s players are enthusiastic and well-prepared.

When asked about increasing concerns from some NBA players about the league’s impending return plan in Orlando — because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, and because of the fear that the resumption of basketball could take attention away from the racial and social justice movements taking place — and whether he’d had any such conversations with his own team, he said that the plan at the moment is for everyone except the injured Bojan Bogdanovic to play when the games get started again.

“As of right now, our group is going to be intact going to Orlando,” Snyder said. “But we’ll also continue to have that dialogue. Because I think there’s things that are bigger than basketball.”

And, indeed, that’s where he directed most of his attention Thursday.

Snyder said he was “extremely proud of Donovan that he’s articulating … something that he feels that is important — personally and important to our society, generally speaking, at large.”

However, when the correlating issue of the vitriolic backlash that Mitchell received on an Instagram post about the Juneteenth holiday was raised, Snyder noted that was yet more evidence of the importance of continuing to raise awareness.

“There were a lot of positive comments surrounding Donovan’s post. That said, there were also some comments that were abominable and things that we all should never tolerate,” Snyder said. “So 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 is work to be done.”

To that end, he mentioned that he and his wife are constantly trying to explain the news of the day to their four children — ages 9, 7, 5 and 3 — and even took them to a Juneteenth event so that they could hear the speakers, march with the people, experience the atmosphere.

“Even if they can’t understand everything on a level that we would say is educated, I think they understand generally the importance of treating each other not only with respect, but fairly, and people being treated justly throughout our society,” Snyder said. “… Children grow up, and racism isn’t something that any of us are born with. So to the extent that we have that obligation individually to educate ourselves, I think that’s manifold with our children because we have the greatest impact on them as parents.”

He added that he’s trying to have an impact any way he can.

That has included his work with the National Basketball Coaches Association’s committee on racial and social justice reform, where he acknowledged getting an education he calls simultaneously humbling and inspiring. He noted the importance of coaches continuing to speak up and speak out, in order to support and augment what their players are saying.

“We’ve had players in this league that have exercised their individual platforms for a long time, and they’ve done great things. And the NBA has been socially conscious in a lot of ways. I think we’re at a point now where that’s even more important,” Snyder said. “And to the extent that us as coaches want to both support the players and also do what we can do individually, in addition to what they’re doing, I think that’s very important to us, to not just leave these issues and these platforms to the players, that we can assist with that, as well.”

The coach said he’s sympathetic to those who argue “that the NBA playing could be a distraction from other issues that I think we would agree are more important,” and added that he fully supports “players’ individual right to make these decisions based on their personal convictions.”

However, he also thinks that the NBA’s resumption will offer a unique opportunity to further amplify the message.

“I do believe that a big part of us playing is that opportunity to have that platform,” Snyder said. “… I know there’ll be a lot of thought and dialogue around various things that can happen that will help educate people, that will continue to raise awareness, that will keep the awareness that has been raised where it is and then hopefully take it higher, and that we can really take steps to assure the conversation that’s taking place doesn’t stop happening.”