SALT LAKE CITY — Quin Snyder is an NBA coach. Being the Utah Jazz coach is a large part of his identity, but it’s not the only thing that defines him.
Snyder is a husband, a father of five including four small children ages 9, 7, 5 and 3, a native of Washington state, and a graduate of Duke with a law degree and an M.B.A.
Snyder is also a white man, coaching mostly Black players in a mostly Black league. He recognizes the privilege that he lives with and feels a sense of duty to not only stand in solidarity with his players, but to do more.
As the country grapples with rising unrest in response to racial inequality, and protests against police brutality and racial injustice continue to demand reform, Snyder is finding that it’s not enough for him to say that he is anti-racist or that he supports his players and the Black community.
On June 19, Snyder, his wife Amy, and their four young children put on masks and went to the Juneteenth celebration in Salt Lake City. The holiday commemorates the 1865 emancipation of slaves in the United States.
“I wanted them to be a part of that, to hear the speakers, to march with people,” Snyder said on Thursday. “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 faces the same challenges that many parents face in trying to educate his young children about what’s going on in the world. While it can be difficult and uncomfortable, Snyder said that being self aware and educating himself makes it easier to have those conversations and translate them to the language of a 9-year-old.
“Racism isn’t something that any of us are born with. 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 of anyone as parents.” — Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder
“Racism isn’t something that any of us are born with,” he said. “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 of anyone as parents.”
Snyder, while highly academically educated, does not consider his education complete when it comes to race or understanding the plight of people of color. In an effort to continue that education and to try to make a difference, he is part of a committee of NBA coaches who have tasked themselves with impacting reform and racial justice.
The committee, spearheaded by Atlanta Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce, has been meeting remotely and communicating regularly. Snyder said that education has been a key component of the early discussions within the committee, but that they are getting closer to being able to take action.
“The education that I’ve been able to receive on any number of issues is humbling in many ways and it’s also inspiring,” he said. “We’re in a process of talking people, local leaders, grass roots organizations.”
As the NBA moves forward with its plan to restart the 2019-20 season that was suspended in March — despite rising COVID-19 cases across the country and notably in Florida, where 22 NBA teams plan to be — the league has said that it will make a point of continuing the awareness currently being raised around racial issues.
On Friday, NBA commissioner Adam Silver and National Basketball Players Association executive director Michele Roberts said that the league has created a foundation dedicated to impacting racial and social reform.
For Snyder, who certainly supports the NBA’s initiative and the many players who are speaking out, including many of his own players, he believes there is a certain responsibility that the coaches have to take more action.
NBA players, and athletes in general, have long used the platforms that they have to raise awareness and speak up for justice and equality. Snyder is deeply proud of the Jazz players who have been vocal over the past few weeks but he doesn’t want the burden of speaking out to be solely placed on their shoulders.
“I think we’re at a point now where that’s even more important,” he said. “Us, as coaches, want to both support the players and also do what we can 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. We can assist with that as well.”
“The road from complacency to complicity is a slippery slope. I think as we educate ourselves more and more, that complacency falls off and then it’s an opportunity to act.” — Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder
It would be very easy for Snyder to lean on his identity as the coach of the Utah Jazz and to focus solely on the upcoming task at hand: getting his team ready to play after a four-months-long layoff during a global pandemic.
It would be very easy to put out a statement and say that he stands with his players and that he supports Black Lives Matter and wants to see change.
It would be very easy to fall back into a place of complacency and go on with his life, business as usual.
But, the easy road is dangerous, and silence, inaction and complacency is not OK with Snyder. Some things are bigger and more important than basketball.
It all begins with Snyder himself, wanting to be a better father, husband and man.
“The road from complacency to complicity is a slippery slope,” he said. “I think as we educate ourselves more and more, that complacency falls off and then it’s an opportunity to act.”