SALT LAKE CITY — You can always expect Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder to be focused on the moment. Be it a game, a practice, a specific play, or even a question.
So it was no surprise then for Snyder, who was able to join his team for workouts this week as the Jazz prepare for the NBA’s restart in Orlando next month, to begin his first media availability since March 11 by saying the game can wait for now.
“I think we'll have a lot of time next week to talk about basketball,” Snyder said.
Currently, there are more important things to discuss. Like the reason Jazz sixth man Jordan Clarkson marched in Los Angeles. Or why teammate Nigel Williams-Goss joined the rallies in Salt Lake City. Or why star guard Donovan Mitchell has questioned a part of Utah's fan base.
“Whatever complacency that you may have towards those things,” Snyder said, "the road from complacency to complicity is a slippery slope. I think as we educate ourselves more and more, that complacency falls off.”
With education and conversation, he hopes the league can use its return to not distract from but magnify the Black Lives Matter movement that’s swept across the nation.
“We can really take steps to ensure the conversation that’s taking place doesn’t stop happening,” Snyder said. “That’s one of the great things about having the opportunity to play on the stage we will have.”
While some players across the league have expressed concerns that resuming play might detract from the social movement, Snyder said he has spoken with his team about their personal convictions, and “as of right now, our group is going to be intact going to Orlando.” But those conversations will continue over the course of the coming weeks.
Last week, Snyder donned a mask and stood with his family in downtown Salt Lake City on June 19. They listened to speakers and marched with thousands as they celebrated Juneteenth, which honors the liberation of people who were enslaved in the United States.
Snyder knows his children — ages 9, 7, 5, and 3 — likely didn’t grasp all the meanings behind the celebration, but he wanted to use that experience to share his beliefs with them.
“Sometimes you have to translate to a 9-year-old's language,” Snyder said. “And that's easier to do if you're self-aware of the things you feel are important and are impacting you and potentially your family.”
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
On the same day, Snyder celebrated Juneteenth with his family, Mitchell posted a graphic on Instagram that read “free•ish since 1865.”
There were positive responses, to be sure, but amid the messages of support Mitchell was called “delusional” and “ungrateful” and was told to “quit being a victim.”
“There were comments that were abominable and things that we all should never tolerate,” said Snyder, who mentioned he was proud of his players for using their voices to raise awareness. “To the extent you can rationalize some of those negative comments by saying there were positive comments, I think that’s a mistake. We all have to be diligent because as long as those (negative) comments are there, there’s work to be done.”
Snyder is trying to be part of that work and the solutions. He’s on the NBA Coaches Association committee to address racial injustice, where he’s taken part in discussions about how to make lasting impacts in the league, community and country. He admits, though, that he's doing more learning in those meetings than anything.
“We’ve had a lot of meetings, and the education I’ve been able to receive on a number of issues is humbling in many ways, and it’s also inspiring,” Snyder said.
The same type of education he hoped his children got at a Juneteenth commemoration as they made signs and participated in the rally. And the kind that will lead to uncomfortable dialogue — and hopefully positive change.
“We don't need to be defensive about what we hear; we need to process it, try to understand it,” Snyder said. “Because at that point, when we have a greater understanding, we can have that dialogue. And we begin to find those ways that we can to unite.”