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Donovan Mitchell didn't 'understand' Utah's critical race theory resolution, Utah Senate president says

Senate President Stuart Adams, R-Layton, speaks during a special session at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on May 19.

Senate President Stuart Adams, R-Layton, speaks during a special session at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on May 19. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)



SALT LAKE CITY — One of Utah's legislative leaders is getting backlash on social media after a video began circulating Wednesday that shows him talking about Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell's vocal pushback on Utah lawmakers' handling of critical race theory.

In the video, Senate President Stuart Adams, R-Layton, can be seen participating on a panel with other conservative leaders from across the nation in May, a day after the Utah Legislature called its own "extraordinary session" to pass a pair of nonbinding resolutions urging the State School Board to ban what lawmakers considered "harmful" critical race theory concepts.

In the video, Adams tells the panel, recorded on May 21 as part of the Council for National Policy's 40th Anniversary Meeting, he'd recently received a text about an article detailing Mitchell's disapproval with the resolutions.

Adams was responding to a question about pushback from business or corporate interests on "cultural issues," such as abortion or transgender athletes participating in girls sports.

"I hate to use names, but I will. Donovan Mitchell is not happy with us," Adams says in the video. "And you start to get ... very popular sports stars like that that are pushing back. We've got work to do to try to educate them. My text back was, 'Let's get after him and let's go tell him what we're doing,' because I don't really think he understands what happened."

On a separate issue, Adams also pointed to general pushback from sports organizations on a bill proposed earlier this year that would have banned transgender athletes in girls sports, but stalled.

"(The transgender athletes bill) made it through the House, came to the Senate, we thought we had it done, but then there was pretty good backlash from the Jazz and other sports organizations and the NBA, and it stalled in the Senate," Adams said in the video. "I hate to tell you that, but it did."

Even though critical race theory is not taught in Utah schools, Adams said it's something the Utah Legislature will still tackle, likely in the upcoming 2022 general session set to begin in January.

"It's not something that we've seen a lot in Utah, but I think it is a big issue and we're going to deal with it," he says in the video.

Ryan Smith, the Utah Jazz's new owner, tweeted a response to Adams' comments Wednesday, indicating perhaps Utah lawmakers should be doing the listening, not the "educating."

"When it comes to important issues like race, we have to start from a position of listening, not 'educating' … and listening to our players' experiences is a great place to start," Smith tweeted.

Mitchell is part of a coalition of NBA players, named the Social Justice Coalition, with a mission of persuading Congress and states to pass legislation for voting rights, police accountability and criminal justice reform, GQ magazine reported.

A request for comment from Mitchell through the Utah Jazz was not immediately returned Wednesday. Mitchell was asked briefly about Adams' comments on The Zone Sports Network's "The Big Show" Wednesday afternoon, but Mitchell told the radio station he's focused on helping teachers in schools. "I don't want to give an answer to him right now. I don't want that to be the story," Mitchell said, adding he would speak to the issue eventually, just not now.

Critical race theory, according to the American Bar Association, recognizes "that race is not biologically real but is socially constructed and socially significant." It also acknowledges that racism is a normal feature of society and is embedded within systems and institutions.

The versions of the Utah Legislature's nonbinding resolutions that ultimately passed did not encourage a flat-out ban of critical race theory, but rather focused on banning certain topics that lawmakers deemed "harmful." The resolutions urged the State School Board to ensure certain concepts aren't taught in Utah schools including:

  • "That one race is inherently superior or inferior to another race."
  • "That an individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment because of the individual's race."
  • "That an individual's moral character is determined by the individual's race."

Adams, in a statement issued Wednesday, said Utah lawmakers "adjusted the resolution to reflect input from constituents and stakeholders to focus on three concepts, which I believe we can all agree on, that no curriculum or instruction materials should include."

Adams also said lawmakers asked the Utah Board of Education to "continue working on this to ensure all kids in our state feel valued and respected." In June, after more than four hours of debate, the State School Board approved a rule that clarifies what Utah schools can't teach about race and equity.

"The legislative process worked," Adams said. "I appreciate everyone participating. The more information and input we receive, the better policy outcomes."

Adams added: "As lawmakers, we need to better explain policy that was passed to make sure individuals are aware that we listen to feedback and work to have bills reflect what we are hearing."

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Katie McKellar

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