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Why Rep. Chris Stewart won't be attending Utah Jazz games this year — or maybe ever

Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, speaks at an election night event for Republican candidates in at the Utah Association of
Realtors building in Sandy on Nov. 3, 2020. Stewart says he won’t be attending Utah Jazz games this season and possibly beyond because of the new COVID-19 vaccination policy at Vivint Arena.

Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, speaks at an election night event for Republican candidates in at the Utah Association of Realtors building in Sandy on Nov. 3, 2020. Stewart says he won’t be attending Utah Jazz games this season and possibly beyond because of the new COVID-19 vaccination policy at Vivint Arena. (Spenser Heaps, Deseret News)



Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — At least one prominent Utahn won't be attending Utah Jazz games this season and possibly beyond because of the new COVID-19 vaccination policy at Vivint Arena.

Republican Rep. Chris Stewart condemned the venue's requirement that fans show proof of a COVID-19 vaccination or negative PCR test within 72 hours of an event start time to enter the gates.

In a Facebook post Wednesday, Stewart said he has received the vaccine, and short of an overriding medical concern, religious teaching or some other consideration such as a pregnancy, has encouraged others to be vaccinated as well.

"But I will never allow a private company to require that I show proof of any medical procedure to visit their facility. I will never carry a vaccination passport. I will never share any of my private medical information with anyone except my health providers," he wrote.

"So, though vaccinated, I will not be going to any Utah Jazz games this year."

Vivint Arena and the Jazz announced the requirement last Friday. It goes into effect tonight for the NHL preseason game between the Los Angeles Kings and Vegas Golden Knights.

In announcing the policy, Jim Olson, president of Vivint Arena and the Utah Jazz, said the venue and the team have a responsibility to protect their guests by putting health and safety standards in place.

Fans can show proof of full vaccination by showing their CDC-issued vaccination card including the name of the person vaccinated, the type of vaccination provided and the date that the last dose was administered, a digital photo of the vaccination card stored on a phone or electronic device, or a printed photo on the vaccination card.

An exception allows for children under 12 years old, who currently aren't eligible to receive a vaccine, to enter the arena without proof of vaccination or a COVID-19 test, but they are required to wear a mask.

Stewart wrote that he has loved the Jazz since the team moved to Utah when he was a teenager. As his children grew up, he said his family spent countless nights watching games and talking about them at the dinner table. When his family didn't live in Utah, they always found a way to follow the games, he said.

"More recently, in a world where so many things have turned contentious and divisive, the Jazz were an opportunity to bring us together," he said. "That's why I will miss them."

Stewart's Facebook drew more than 650 comments, some siding with him and some opposing him.

"Amen!! Such BS!!! I will not be attending myself. I hope sales drop for them and other private companies requiring proof of vaccination!" wrote Heather Mitchell.

"I'm assuming you didn't send your children to school, or on missions, which also require proof of vaccinations," wrote Alisa Allred Mercer.

Dr. Leisha Nolen, state epidemiologist, applauded the Jazz decision, saying last week that she's happy the Jazz are taking the safety of their fans, staff and players seriously. She said the Utah Department of Health welcomed efforts by businesses to operate their events in a safe manner during this time of high COVID-19 transmission.

The Jazz open the season at home Oct. 20 against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

As for Stewart, he said he might never go to another Jazz game.

"Next year, if the Jazz leadership changes their policy, maybe I'll come back," he wrote.

"Or maybe I'll just move on."

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Dennis Romboy

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