Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder gave two donations worth $500 each to Burgess Owens, the Republican candidate in Utah’s tight 4th Congressional District race.
The donations are likely to surprise some given the public stances of the two men. Snyder has been vocal about his support of the Black Lives Matter movement, and sits on the NBA coaches committee on racial injustice and reform. He kneeled with his team during the national anthem and supported the Jazz as it joined other teams in protest games in the wake of Jacob Blake’s police shooting.
Owens has criticized those stances. He’s called Black Lives Matter a “Marxist organization,” and told Fox News that “We need to fight for our country against these Marxists and these bullies and cowards that are destroying everything they touch.”
Owens also spoke out against the NBA’s protests.
“Our young men need to know there’s accountability, there’s a time and place for everything,” he told the Deseret News editorial board. “If young men want to ... protest, let them protest on their own time."
Owens continued: “They wait until the season, they wait until they have an audience and then we have this opportunity where literally we’ve been torn apart in ways that have never been done when it comes to sports.”
The Salt Lake Tribune learned that Snyder and Owens met Feb. 21, when a nonprofit founded by Owens, Second Chance 4 Youth, attended a Jazz game against the Spurs. Later, Owens asked Snyder for a donation, which he delivered twice: one $500 donation on May 3, and another $500 on June 3, according to campaign disclosures. The donations were to Owens' campaign, not the youth charity.
Both donations came before the NBA’s bubble began, and before the loudest of Owens' statements against Black Lives Matter and the NBA. But Owens, who is Black, had clearly stood against Black Lives Matter before Snyder’s donations.
Snyder declined comment when asked about the donation. The Jazz organization also declined to comment on the matter.
Snyder has been outspoken during this summer when issues of police violence and racial injustice were prominent. On June 19, Snyder attended a Juneteenth march with his family. "I wanted them to be part of that,” Snyder said then, “to hear the speakers, to march with people.”
In early July, Snyder and the Jazz started preparations for the restart of the NBA season in Orlando. When the season resumed, Snyder and his team all kneeled during the national anthem, as they would in each game until being eliminated in the playoffs last week.
“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. “The road from complacency to complicity is a slippery slope. As we educate ourselves more and more, that complacency falls off, and then it’s an opportunity to act.”
On Aug. 29, in the wake of the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin and the NBA players’ protest that happened afterward, the Jazz’s players, coaches and management held a conference call with Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall and Utah Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox to discuss next steps in the battle against racial injustice.
According to documents provided through a public records request, Snyder connected two Jazz players with Mendenhall via text message in the wake of that meeting: Jordan Clarkson and Rudy Gobert. Clarkson wanted to help with youth programs in Salt Lake City, while Gobert was looking to bolster his support for refugees in the area.
Snyder’s previous political donations came in 2003 and 2004, while he was the head coach of the University of Missouri. Then, he donated $1,000 to John Edwards’ presidential campaign and $1,000 to Erskine Bowles’s Senate campaign. Both men are Democrats.
Jazz owner Gail Miller has given the maximum donation to Rep. Ben McAdams, D-Utah, Owens' Democratic opponent, twice: $2,700 in 2018 and $2,800 in 2019. She has not donated to Owens, though had donated to Rep. Mia Love, R-Utah, who previously represented the 4th District. In 2020, she has donated to the congressional campaigns of Republican Reps. John Curtis and Chris Stewart.