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What the Jazz organization’s 100% vaccination rate says about the franchise

Utah general manager Justin Zanik, players talk about that and other matters at annual media day at Vivint Arena

Utah Jazz general manager Justin Zanik fields questions during media day at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City on Sept. 27, 2021.
Utah Jazz general manager Justin Zanik fields questions during media day at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City on Monday, Sept. 27, 2021.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Across the NBA on Monday teams held their annual media day, which include everything from team photos, player headshots and recording promos to the players, coaches executives speaking with reporters to forecast the upcoming 2021-22 season.

Leading up to Monday there had been multiple reports that pushback from NBA players about getting a COVID-19 vaccine could end up impacting their ability to play. But for the Utah Jazz, that won’t be a problem.

“We are 100% vaccinated,” Jazz general manager Justin Zanik said. “I’m happy to be able to say that.”

Meanwhile, Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving was not at Nets media day due to health and safety protocols and would not comment on his vaccination status, Golden State Warriors guard Andrew Wiggins was recently denied a religious exemption from the vaccine by the NBA, and a recent article in Rolling Stone detailed a growing number of NBA players who are at risk of not being able to play or face stricter rules if they are not vaccinated by the time the season begins.

Players for the Nets as well as the New York Knicks and Golden State Warriors must be vaccinated, barring a medical or religious exemption, because of local regulations and mandates.

The issue has become a hot-button topic with NBA training camps opening on Tuesday and opening day on Oct. 19 drawing near. But while other teams are doing damage control and dealing with the optics of having players refusing to be vaccinated, the Jazz are proud that they won’t have to deal with any vaccine-related distractions.

And it’s not just the Jazz players that are fully vaccinated. Everyone in the Jazz organization is.

“I think it’s every person’s choice, but the fact that our players and our coaches and health performance and the entire organization chose to do that to protect each other says something about them,” Zanik said. “I think this is a simple gesture to each of them, between them, as well as our fans and our communities. Yes, I am proud of them. I’m proud.”

There were some players who took more time than others to get vaccinated, like Rudy Gobert, who said he needed time to think about it and talk to the appropriate people, but in the end, he said he made the right decision.

“It is cool that we have the whole group and that everyone is ready, making sure that we aren’t making that a distraction for the team,” Gobert said. “And it just shows, it shows that we are ready.”

On Friday Jazz guard and reigning Sixth Man of the Year Jordan Clarkson was interviewed by KUTV reporter Hayley Crombleholme shortly after the Jazz announced that anyone attending a game this season would need either proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of the event.

The interview gained social media fame as soon as it wrapped because Crombleholme didn’t realize she was speaking to a Jazz player and Clarkson went along letting her think he was just a normal non-NBA player.

All laughs aside, Clarkson said he was told that day that there were fans who said that they wouldn’t be coming to games because of the new requirement.

“I mean, if you don’t come you’re missing the best show in town, for real,” Clarkson said on Monday. “We’ve got one main goal this year and we’re going to rack up a lot of wins, so you do what you’ve got to do, get your COVID test, get your vaccine.”

Joe Ingles said that with three children at home, including a 10-month old baby and a 5-year old son who is immunocompromised, it helps knowing that he can go to work and be as safe as possible before returning home to his family.

Donovan Mitchell added his voice to those urging fans who are able to get vaccinated to do so.

“I think it’s great that we’re all well vaccinated,” Mitchell said. “It is a personal decision but I definitely encourage, not just my team, but people to get vaccinated so we can get past this.”

The Utah Jazz’s Jordan Clarkson answers questions during media day at Vivint Arena on Monday, Sept. 27, 2021, in Salt Lake City.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Zanik said his commitment to trying to do his best to keep people safe, goes beyond the Jazz and the arena. He said that his daughter, Ava, who is 14, got her vaccination once she was eligible.

“She still wears her mask at school and I said ‘if anybody ever asks you why you’re wearing your mask at school, tell them that you’re protecting Donovan and Rudy and you’re doing your part to help the Jazz win a championship,” Zanik said. “I think it’s all reflective of what our players, our coaches and staff has a commitment to.”