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Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder stresses need for open dialogue regarding racial injustice, COVID-19 concerns

Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell confers with Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder Thursday, Jan. 30, 2020, in Denver.
Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — As the NBA moves forward with its plan to resume the 2019-20 season, players, coaches and everyone involved are faced with making the tough decision of joining the league, or opting to sit out.

For the first time since the NBA shut down March 11, Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder met with local reporters and others Thursday and discussed some of the larger issues that have been on his mind as well as on the minds of the players.

“I feel good about our team, I think everybody is enthusiastic about the foundation we’ve built this year and guys getting ready to play as we get back together,” Snyder said. “But really on my mind, on their mind, on a lot of people’s mind is what’s been going on in our country.”

Civil unrest over racial injustice, inequality and police brutality has sparked protests worldwide and the NBA community has made it a priority to continue awareness regarding these issues.

The social issues along with the rise in COVID-19 cases, the risk of transmitting the coronavirus, the fear and concern of injury after a four-month long hiatus and many other factors have led to some players choosing to forego the rest of the 2019-20 season, an option given to them by the NBA.

Snyder said allowing open dialogue within the team and between all his staff has been of the utmost importance during the season suspension. But, even with all of the concern, as of Thursday, the Jazz will head to Florida as a whole.

“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. ... I think all of our players and our coaches and our organization as a whole have a respect for the players’ individual rights to make these decisions based on their personal convictions, whether it be health related, family or social issues.”

As it has been with the NBA’s plan to restart the season, nothing is set in stone and things can always change, but there is also growing optimism about the opportunity the NBA will have to further conversations about social issues while in Orlando.

“I know there will be a lot of thought and dialogue around various things that can happen that will educate people,” Snyder said. “That will continue to raise awareness, that will keep the awareness that has been raised where it is and then hopefully take it higher. Then we can really take steps to assure that the conversation that’s taking place doesn’t stop happening. That’s one of the great things of having an opportunity to play on a stage that we will.”

Snyder spent a good portion of his time with the media speaking about the pride he has in how the Jazz players have used their platforms and voices over the past few weeks.

He noted Donovan Mitchell’s social media activity and response to racially charged comments, Jordan Clarkson taking part in peaceful protests in Los Angeles and the rest of the Jazz organization standing up for social justice.

Mitchell has continued to call out racism and support Black culture on various social media platforms and received a fair amount of hate following a Juneteenth post on Instagram, to which he called out NBA fans.

“Can’t see how yall can openly cheer for us then when it comes to this be against us so openly!!” Mitchell said on Twitter.

Snyder addressed Mitchell’s comments and said that he’s glad that Mitchell may have made some people uncomfortable because being uncomfortable with the truth is part of the education process that needs to happen right now. Snyder also said that people should not be won over by the fact that a majority of the comments on Mitchell’s post were positive. Ignoring the negative only exacerbates the problem.

“There were a lot of positive comments surrounding Donovan’s post,” Snyder said. “That said, there were also some comments that were abominable and things that we all should never tolerate. To the extent that you can rationalize some of those negative comments by saying there were positive comments, I think that’s a mistake. ... As long as those comments are there, there’s work to be done.”