SALT LAKE CITY — Moments after Gordon Hayward let the sports world know he’s headed to Boston on Tuesday, some heartbroken Utah Jazz fans displayed their displeasure in a way that has almost become a ritual in free-agency situations.
They set their No. 20 Hayward jerseys on fire.
Multiple videos of uniform cremations circulated on social media in the aftermath of #stayward going #wayward. Another fan eschewed the flames and videoed himself simply tossing his Hayward top into the trash.
One Jazz fan has a different idea for these articles of clothing that are perfectly good, even if the person whose name is on the back no longer wants to be part of the team that’s on the front.
Zach Harding, who’s as bummed out as anyone in the Beehive State, hopes to convince disgruntled fans to channel their frustrations into doing something thoughtful for someone else.
"If fans are upset and they want to get rid of it or take out their frustration,” he said, “why not put it to a good cause?"
Harding is spearheading a campaign project to gather unwanted Hayward jerseys, T-shirts or other G-Time-related items and donate them to kids in Africa. His Salt Lake City-based company, Medical Review Institute of America, has already been fundraising to provide hygiene kits and school supplies for residents in rural Ghana.
“I experienced the disappointment and frustration that the whole fan base has gone through this week,” Harding said. “In another light, if we can help some people through this and make good of it and brighten some kids’ days over there in Ghana — people who’ve never seen an NBA jersey in their lives — then that would be a great idea.”
Employees from his company will deliver the donated Hayward items — or whatever other player jersey fans want to discard — in September during a humanitarian trip with the Bountiful-based World Joy Foundation.
"I'm not a sports buff. I haven't been following the current events," Joel Dunn, the Institute’s human resources manager and fundraiser committee chairman, said with a laugh. "With people saying they'll throw their jerseys away or burn them or what have you, I thought, 'Hey, this is a great idea. Let's get some things going and see how many we can collect.'"
Harding said he would much rather see Jazz fans spread cheer instead of destroying good gear that could be used by people who likely have no idea who or what a Hayward is.
He laughed that it could be good publicity for Utah’s favorite basketball team.
“The last thing they’re thinking about is, ‘Where did a free agent go?’ They’re not going to care. They’re just going to be excited to have an NBA jersey,” Harding said. “We’d be excited to see a bunch of little kids running around with Jazz jerseys in Ghana.”
Dunn smiles at that thought.
"To think, in a couple months, there could be a whole town in Africa all sporting Hayward jerseys," he said. "That'd be quite a sight to see."
Harding sent out Facebook posts and messages to people who might be interested in donating. His post on the closed group Utah Jazz Die-Hards Unite drew a number of interested people.
"I was wanting to burn (the) jersey. But I can put my ego away, I would love to help out and do this for the kids down there," wrote one commenter.
"Do you take Trey Lyles' jersey?" asked another. "I no longer enjoy it in my house."
Every type of jersey or memorabilia item is welcome.
West Jordan Jazz fan Jordan Wager said he planned to donate the clothes to Deseret Industries until he saw a Facebook post about a group requestion donations. Instead, Wagner decided to send them to the charity drive.
"I've had my Hayward jersey for about four years now," he said in a Facebook message, adding that it was a gift. "My son also has a jersey and a shirt with Gordon on it. I've thought about burning them and getting laughs on social media, but I thought, 'What kind of lesson would that teach my son?'"
Hayward jerseys — if not otherwise bonfire-bound — can be dropped off or delivered to Medical Review Institute of America's office at 2875 S. Decker Lake Drive, Suite 300.
Another bonus? It might help fans cope with this rough time.
“It can be therapeutic,” Harding said, “and we can feel good about it and do something for others.”