SALT LAKE CITY — Displaying his maturity in a public way, Donovan Mitchell is progressing as a professional basketball player and as a person.
In light of the high-profile incidents involving police in this country, the Jazz guard has taken to social media to voice his concern. As part of his series of comments on Twitter and Instagram, Mitchell has received thousands of responses ranging from commendation to condemnation.
The emerging star has become the Jazz version of LeBron James, willing to speak out on the appropriate social issues true to his conviction. Heavy stuff for the 23-year-old African-American player in his third year in the NBA.
“He’s an incredible player, first of all. As he finds his voice as a young man, I think he’s understanding his power and his impact,” said Washington Post columnist Jerry Brewer.
“He appears to be a tremendous young man. Because his heart is in the right place, I think his messaging has been as responsible and as impactful as any stars in the NBA.”
The son of a New York Mets executive, Mitchell was born in the New York suburbs and attended private schools in Connecticut and New Hampshire. After spending two years at Louisville, he declared for the NBA and came to the Jazz via a draft-day trade with the Denver Nuggets.
The love affair between player and state was instant, more so than any in Utah Jazz history. Polished and charismatic well beyond his age from the beginning, Mitchell could do no wrong in the eyes of the fans even if he didn’t play well in any given game.
The timing also couldn’t have been better for the Jazz, who needed a marquee player after Gordon Hayward’s awkward departure for the Boston Celtics as a free agent. Whereas Hayward never fully embraced the hometown city, Mitchell appeared as if he came from pioneer stock.
But now, if any of the social media responses are viewed at face value, the love affair has taken a hit — not that it may not matter much to Mitchell, who has every right to express his opinions in the responsible manner in which he did.
The point here isn’t to criticize or judge his comments — they speak for themselves, whether you agree or not. Besides, nobody wants to hear or read another lecture on racial issues from a middle-aged Caucasian.
Can’t see how yall can openly cheer for us then when it comes to this be against us so openly!! 🤔— Donovan Mitchell (@spidadmitchell) June 20, 2020
From the basketball standpoint, the social media criticism resurrects longstanding fears that Jazz fans always seem to possess. With Mitchell facing pushback essentially for the first time, fans fret he will follow Hayward out the door at the appropriate time.
As one of Mitchell’s tweets said: “Can’t see how yall can openly cheer for us then when it comes to this be against us so openly.”
But let’s not borrow worries from the future. Mitchell has never outwardly voiced any displeasure with the Jazz organization, even accounting for reports that his relationship with center Rudy Gobert was “unsalvageable” after the coronavirus situation between the two All-Stars.
Also, nothing indicates all the negative on social media strictly comes from Jazz fans. For all of his maturity, Mitchell surely wouldn’t base his future on Instagram comments.
In the immediacy, Mitchell is scheduled to join his teammates for workouts locally and then head to Orlando, Florida, to resume the NBA season next month. While there, expect Mitchell and other NBA players to continue speaking out against any form of racism.
Either way, whether some fans want it or not, the messages are coming. And for many, they believe the players have the responsibility to speak out.
“If you don’t want to watch a basketball games just because (NBA) players are pleading with the rest of the nation to care about the lives of Black people, I would question whether they’re even worth having as fans, whether you really want their money,” Brewer said during an interview with The Zone Sports Network. “I don’t think there’s a great conflict about it.”