Patrick Kinahan: Jazz forced to deal with race issues

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SALT LAKE CITY — Elijah Millsap's accusations against Jazz executive Dennis Lindsey have regurgitated familiar stereotypes that cut deep in Utah and with the NBA franchise.

Shortly after the former Jazz player last week tweeted the claim that Lindsey used racially charged language during a season-ending interview, the inevitable followed on social media. You know the line by now, that this alleged type of action is typical for the life of African Americans in Utah.

Forget about any progress the state has made with race relations. Black people, notably those on the Jazz as the thinking goes, hate living in the state and can't wait to leave.


Right in the middle of the most successful season in decades, the team with the best record in the NBA has to deal with race issues. In an instant, here we go again.

No matter how hard the Jazz organization tries to be player friendly, the prevailing reputation never goes away entirely. Even if the claims are not true, the perception still stings.

"The Elijah Millsap stuff happened, and you just go, wow, we're right back to it again — Utah and race," longtime NBA reporter David Aldridge said in an interview with The Zone Sports Network.

Two days after Millsap's tweets, Aldridge published a story on The Athletic website titled, "Flying high this season, Utah Jazz again grounded by questions of race." The lengthy piece included quotes from current Jazz players Mike Conley and Derrick Favors, two African Americans who were complimentary of their experiences in Utah and with the team.

Andrae Patterson, who worked for Utah from 2015-17 and now is with the Cleveland Cavaliers, sought out Aldridge to express support for Lindsey. Patterson's sentiments mirror what Aldridge has heard over his years covering the league.

"I haven't heard anybody who has had a bad thing to say about Dennis Lindsey. I'll just put it that way. I think he seems by all accounts to be above board, completely professional, wants to do the right thing," he said.

"I'm not saying it couldn't have happened. But it would be completely counter to what he has done in terms of building that organization."

Aldridge points to the fact that Favors, who was with the Jazz from 2011-19, returned to the team as a free agent after spending last season with the New Orleans Pelicans. Three other Black players — Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert and Jordan Clarkson — also signed contract extensions or re-signed as a free agent in recent months.

Over time, the number of former Jazz players who have shared their positive experiences in Utah has chipped away at the ugly theory.

"There was a perception among many Black players that it just was not a good place to go," Aldridge said. "People did not want to play there. I still think it's very difficult for them to get free agents to come there. For me, the thing that's interesting is they have convinced all of their Black players of significance on the roster to not just stay, but to stay there for a long time."

Six years after the alleged incident occurred, Millsap's tweets created a national story that have prompted the Jazz, in conjunction with the NBA, to launch an outside investigation. Millsap, who played for the Jazz over parts of two seasons, said Lindsey threatened to cut his "black ass and send you back to Louisiana."

Lindsey categorically denied making any such statement. Coach Quin Snyder, who was at the exit interview in 2015, did not recall the exact conversation but said Millsap's accusation would have stuck with him if it were true.

"Obviously, I know my truth," Millsap said an interview with The Associated Press. "Some outside counsel or somebody, all they can do is just try to stir it up and make (me) look as if I'm lying. I did it basically to free myself from the torture of holding things in, to free myself, not to make Dennis Lindsey feel bad and not to make him look like a racist. I don't feel he is a racist, but I do know what he said to me."

More from Patrick Kinahan:

About the Author: Patrick Kinahan

Patrick Kinahan is a radio host for 97.5/1280 The Zone and the Zone Sports Network. He, along with David James, are on the air Monday-Friday from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. To read more of his articles, visit Patrick's author page.

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Patrick is a radio host for 97.5/1280 The Zone and the Zone Sports Network. He, along with David James, are on the air Monday-Friday from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m.


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