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SALT LAKE CITY — Disgruntled Gordon Hayward fans can donate jerseys, shirts and other memorabilia from the former Utah Jazz All-Star to a local charity drive that will send donations to Ghana.
"I've seen some of the videos of fans burning Hayward's jersey," said Zach Harding, the creator of the project. "If fans are upset and they want to get rid of it or take out their frustration, why not put it to a good cause?"
Harding works at the Medical Review Institute of America, a company that provides external review resources for national clients.
The Salt Lake-based company partnered with the non-profit World Joy, an organization in Bountiful that builds schools, health clinics and providing training for residents in rural Ghana.
Joel Dunn, the institute's human resources manager and fundraiser committee chair, said company employees think of creative ways to support the fundraiser with their own service ideas.
"We've given the power, essentially, to the employees to pick different projects, things that are important to them," he said.
When Harding presented his idea Thursday morning, Dunn said he was excited.
"I'm not a sports buff. I haven't been following the current events," Dunn 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.'"
In the hours after Hayward announced he is leaving the Jazz to join the Boston Celtics, videos of fans burning jerseys and shirts flooded Facebook.
"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."
After Harding saw the reaction of Utah fans, he said he wanted to channel that anger to a better cause.
"Why waste these jerseys when they could go to some kids in Ghana that will love them? Even if they don't know who the player is," he said. "Maybe it's a little bit of therapy as a Jazz fan."
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 is welcome, Harding said.
"Those kids would be so excited to get a big delivery of jerseys, no matter whose jersey it is. They're not going to care that the player on that jersey isn't a current player on that team," he said.
Jordan Wager lives in West Jordan and saw the post for donations on a Facebook page.
"I've had my Hayward Jersey for about four years now, in which was given to me as a gift," he said in a Facebook message. "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?'"
"Those kids would be so excited to get a big delivery of jerseys, no matter whose jersey it is. They're not going to care that the player on that jersey isn't a current player on that team."
Wager planned to donate the clothes to Deseret Industries, but later decided to send them to the charity drive when he saw the post about the donations.
"To think, in a couple months, there could be a whole town in Africa all sporting Hayward jerseys. That'd be quite a sight to see," Dunn said.
People can mail or drop donations off at the Medical Review Institute of America office, Harding said.
"I think it is kind of therapeutic to be able to help people and not just destroy things," he said. "If you're not going to keep it, send it to people in need and who will really appreciate it."
Employees from the Medical Review Institute of America plan to take the donations to Ghana after the fundraiser ends September.