Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

Utah Jazz, Brooklyn Nets join in a display of 'Solidarity'

by Aaron Falk

Donovan Mitchell wanted a show of solidarity.

The degrading remarks a fan hurled at Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook earlier this week has sparked a larger conversation about racism, respect and fan behavior in Salt Lake City and across the NBA. And as Mitchell and his teammates Ekpe Udoh, Thabo Sefolosha, Royce O’Neale and Jae Crowder had their own discussion in the aftermath, they came up with an idea.

“We were talking about the situation, having a discussion,” Mitchell said, “and the idea for a shirt came up.”

They passed around images until they settled on a picture of two clasped hands. Then Udoh found a quote from the late activist Fred Hampton: “You don’t fight racism with racism, you fight racism with solidarity.”

On Saturday night, the Brooklyn Nets and the Utah Jazz—including players, coaches and staff—all wore those same shirts prior to tipoff.

“It’s bigger than basketball,” Udoh said. “You just hope that it brings people together, understanding our differences, appreciating our differences and having those tough conversations.”

Added Crowder: “When the situation occurred, I took myself out of basketball mode and put myself into dad mode. I have a daughter that’s going to live in this world and be on her own. So it took me into a different space. It’s bigger than basketball. It’s the society we live in and you want to make it a better place.”

The Utah Jazz this week announced a lifetime ban for the fan involved in Monday’s incident at Vivint Smart Home Arena. On Thursday night, team owner Gail Miller delivered a pregame address condemning racism and disrespectful fan behavior. The organization also offered its full support of Mitchell’s and his teammate’s on Saturday.

“We are proud of the players for their thoughtful approach in elevating the conversation on the importance of solidarity and unity. Together we will continue to promote civility and respect in our arena and throughout the NBA,” Jazz president Steve Starks said.

Mitchell said he was grateful for how the Jazz organization had addressed Monday’s incident.

“It’s a blessing to play for an organization that believes so much in what their players say and what they believe,” he said.

Mitchell also thanked the Brooklyn Nets for joining with the Jazz in wearing the T-shirts Saturday.

“I contacted D’Angelo [Russell] and Jared Dudley. Without any hesitation they were on board. That’s pretty special,” Mitchell said. “To have two playoff teams go out there and step aside and take a moment for something that’s bigger than basketball, it shows where we are today and where we are as teams and as a league. It was important for us to do this and I’m glad we did it.” 


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