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Ja Morant's father applauds Jazz for bridging the gap after Game 2's vulgar taunts

Ja Morant's father applauds Jazz for bridging the gap after Game 2's vulgar taunts

(Rick Bowmer, Associated Press)



SALT LAKE CITY — The simplicity of the video gave it power: No music, no quick cuts, no effects — just black words against a white backdrop.

After what had occurred throughout the NBA during the first round of the playoffs, including in Salt Lake City, those words shared a much-needed message.

"Some things are bigger than basketball. Everyone who enters this arena deserves respect — including our opponents," the public service announcement read before tipoff of Utah's Game 5 win over Memphis. "We have zero tolerance for hateful, disrespectful or offensive behavior of any kind. Certain lines should never be crossed.

"When we come into this arena, we represent the Jazz. We represent Utah. We can be the loudest as well as the most respectful arena in the league. Let's protect our house and the people in it."

The new addition to the pregame program stemmed from the actions of three fans who directed racial and vulgar remarks to members of Ja Morant's family during Game 2 of the first-round series.

The incident was enough to keep Morant's mother, Jamie, from coming back to Salt Lake City for Game 5. But, surprisingly enough, the encounter ended on a happy note.

ESPN released a video Thursday of a conversation between Ja Morant's father, Tee Morant, and Donovan Mitchell immediately following Utah's series-clinching win over Memphis Wednesday.

"Hey yo, I'm going for y'all right now," Tee Morant told Mitchell. "Why? Y'all didn't have to do that. Y'all didn't have to show love to us like that."

How did the Jazz reach out?

The Jazz came down hard on the fans in question, banning them from Vivint Arena indefinitely. The organization, including majority owner Ryan Smith, also offered apologies to the Morant family about the actions of the few fans and heightened security measures to try to eliminate those incidents in the future.

Smith then provided complimentary courtside tickets, lodging and a car service for Morant's group of family and friends for Wednesday's game. While his mother didn't make the trip, there were five members of the Morant party at the game.

When the PSA was shown before tip off, it was heavily applauded by the over 14,000 fans in attendance — proving what Tee Morant had said that most of the fans were "great" to interact with during the game. Then, as Ja Morant was introduced in the starting lineup, the obligatory boos turned to cheers. It was almost like the fan base was trying to apologize for the worst of its members.

"This is what I'm saying: When (stuff) goes bad and then you reach out, that's how you bridge the gap," Tee Morant told Mitchell. "Most people don't realize that. That's why I appreciate you, and that's why I hope the Jazz win the championship."

Mitchell told ESPN that the way the Jazz handled the situation — from top on down — shows that positives can come out of the ugliness that took place in the first couple weeks of the playoffs, not to mention the other unfortunate remarks in the past that have caused the Utah fan base to have a negative reputation throughout much of the league.

"We're not going to let people's ignorant comments, people throwing popcorn, people spitting (tarnish the NBA)," Mitchell told ESPN. "The NBA as a whole, each individual team and as a league, are finding ways to show that we stand for what is right and not letting these fans who get out of control deter us from this sport that we love and everything that we enjoy."

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