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Kristin Murphy, KSL, File

Jazz owner Gail Miller among Utah sports leaders condemning violence, racism, injustice

By Sean Walker, KSL.com | Posted - May 31, 2020 at 9:58 p.m.



SALT LAKE CITY — Last year, Utah Jazz owner Gail Miller stood in front of a packed Vivint Smart Home Arena and decried racism and discrimination to the passionate basketball fanbase.

On Sunday, she did it again, in a different venue.

Miller became one of the first prominent Utah sports leaders to speak out against violence and destruction spread across America over the weekend, but she wasn’t the only one.

Across the Beehive State, Utah leaders decried violence caused by some protests — but unilaterally condemned racism, discrimination and the social injustices against which most protestors were fighting in cities across the country — including Salt Lake City — following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

“Hearts across America, and in Utah, are hurting following events of racism, discrimination and injustice sparked by the recent and senseless death of George Floyd,” Miller said in a prepared statement. “As I stated on the basketball court of Vivint Smart Home Arena last year, ‘We believe in treating all people with courtesy and respect as human beings … no one wins when respect goes away.’ It is my sincerest hope that we will work together, peacefully and respectfully, to put an end to the mistreatment of any human being.

“We must hold ourselves and those around us accountable and to the highest standards of decency. We must approach each other with empathy and kindness as we continue to build collaboration and, more importantly, inclusivity and trust.”

Larry H. Miller Group CEO Steve Starks, who has been Miller’s right-hand man in many ways since he was president of the Jazz, added his voice of approval, as well, and implored his friends to “have real conversations in your homes, families, churches and places of work” about racism and tolerance.

“Like you, I have felt deep sorrow about the death of George Floyd and the accompanying hurt it has caused in our communities and country,” Starks wrote on Twitter. “Unfortunately, this isn’t an isolated incident and people are tired and angry. Instinctively, parents want their children to have the opportunity to plow in clean soil free from the challenges and hurt of the past. These shared desires speak to our being part of the same family.

“May we be united and rise above injustice, division, and hate of any kind. And may we expect our leaders to appeal to the best within us, promote peace, and ensure the fair and equitable distribution of law and justice.”

Jazz center Rudy Gobert also expressed disapproval of the violence surrounding Floyd’s death. After retweeting video of the incident showing former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on the neck of Floyd, who later died, the French star tweeted his own reaction.

“If you let your coworker do that to another human being without trying to stop him or talk to him out of it, you are as guilty as he is,” Gobert said, according to the Deseret News. “Frustrating for the majority of good cops that take a lot of risk doing their job the right way everyday.”

Utah teammate Donovan Mitchell used a photo caption of actor Will Smith used in a recent episode of “The Late Show” with Stephen Colbert that read, “Racism is not getting worse, it’s getting filmed.”

“I woke up this morning and saw this!” Mitchell tweeted. “So true.”

The Jazz weren’t the only ones to add their collective voice decrying violence, but also racism and discrimination in Utah sports this week.

“SLC is not immune to the hopeless and fear of the underrepresented communities,” Utah athletic director Mark Harlan wrote on Twitter. “As a leader, I need to do more, every day, to be more aware and act on their behalf.

“I strongly urge all to protest peacefully and avoid the violence we are seeing. Causing more pain is not the path.”

Utah women’s basketball coach Lynne Roberts spoke on behalf of her coaching staff, and in support of the many minority student-athletes she’s coached.

“During these heartbreaking times in America, my staff and I stand with all of our student-athletes and the challenges they will face as young people in this world,” Roberts said. “We will continue to listen to, seek to understand, and stand in solidarity with one another despite any differences between us and the oppression that exists beyond sport.

“Utah women’s basketball is a tight-knit family that we are all proud to be a part of; and now more than ever, we are united and motivated to be agents of change.”

Former Utah star Kyle Kuzma added his own voice “with a heavy heart” after Saturday night’s protests.

“This just ain’t right,” the current Los Angeles Lakers wing wrote on Instagram. “Violence is never the answer on both sides, but how the (expletive) do you want us to say enough is enough? Kneel? Not good enough? March? Not enough? Say please?

“This is all disturbing that it’s gotten to this. We all say as public figures, we need to use our platforms to help inspire and give positive messages, but I have to ask the question to myself … is it enough? During a global pandemic, we as a country that should have been coming together as one, but we are divided once again because of the dislike and hate of one’s hue. Seriously? 400+ years. yes, there has been progress and we must recognize but we have been told that it takes time. Our great grandparents said it. Grandparents said it. Parents said it. WE ARE SAYING IT!! Enough is enough. Stand for something or fall for everything.”

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Had a heavy heart last night. This just ain’t right. Violence is never the answer on both sides, but how the hell do you want us to say enough is enough? Kneel? Not good enough? March? Not enough? Say please? This is all disturbing that it’s gotten to this. We all say as public figures we need to use our platforms to help inspire & give positive messages, but I have to ask the question to myself... Is it enough? During a global pandemic we as a country that should have been coming together as one, but we are divided once again because of the dislike and hate of one’s hue. Seriously? 400+ years. Yes there has been progress and we must recognize but we have been told that it takes time. Our great grandparents said it. Grandparents said it. Parents said it. WE ARE SAYING IT!! Enough is enough. Stand for something or fall for everything. ✊🏽 Please stay safe everyone!

A post shared by Kyle Kuzma (@kuz) on

Across the ocean, former Provo High and BYU basketball star Brandon Davies shared an experience of his father-in-law, who is white, while playing in a golf tournament. When two black men played ahead of him, a friend told his father-in-law, “See, those are the blacks I like.”

Davies said he left in the middle of the tournament as a way to tell them how wrong they were.

“Something like this can seem so small, but in that moment, he stood up for not only his grandchildren and I, but also stood against racism everywhere,” Davies wrote on Twitter. “Be an example. be the light.”

BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe thought back on his career as a defensive back at BYU, as well as nine years with the San Francisco 49ers, when he stood shoulder-to-shoulder with several minority players.

“It was the best experience of my life,” Holmoe wrote on Twitter. “My brothers taught me much more than football and treated me with love and respect, and we accomplished much together as a result.

“I love them. Changed my life. I’ve got to do more.”

In Logan, Utah State president Noelle Cockett called the death of Floyd in Minneapolis “extremely disturbing to watch,” and said it prompted her to reaffirm the university’s commitment to inclusion and respect “in our Aggie family and in those communities we reach every day.”

“Clearly there are many troubling, systemic issues confronting us as a nation, and I think these highly volatile moments are opportune times for us to look inside ourselves to see how we can personally help address and alleviate injustice,” Cockett said in an open letter addressed to students, faculty and staff. “These are the times for our Aggie family to join together and reflect about our commitment on USU’s principles of community — our institutional Aggie pledge to diversity, human dignity and social responsibility.

“Please join me today as I reassert one of my critical obligations as university president: to cultivate an environment of respectful engagement and respectful discourse at every level of our society.”

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