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Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder hopes NBA's Orlando games can provide a platform for racial equality and social justice reform
On the afternoon of June 19, Utah Jazz head coach Quin Snyder and his family donned masks and joined with the crowd gathered at Salt Lake’s city hall. The thousands gathered downtown that day were celebrating Juneteenth, the celebration of the 1865 emancipation of enslaved people in the United States.
“I wanted them to be part of that,” Snyder said of his four young children, “to hear the speakers, to march with people.”
The coach, like so many others in America, has been moved by the rallies and protests that have taken over streets across the country in the month since the killing of George Floyd, a black man, by Minneapolis police on May 25. Snyder has been educated and humbled as he’s spoken with his own players in recent weeks. He has been inspired by their voices, both publicly and privately. He has taken action, joining the NBA coaches’ committee on racial injustice and reform.
And the Utah Jazz head coach says he wants the resumption of the NBA season next month in Orlando to magnify the Black Lives Matter movement and propel forward the fight for racial equality in America.
“There’s been dialogue about playing and potentially that the NBA playing could be a distraction from other issues that, I think we would agree, are more important,” Snyder said on a video conference call with reporters Thursday afternoon. “That said, I do believe a big part of us playing is the opportunity to have a platform.
“… We want to keep the focus where it is and hopefully take it higher. We can really take steps to ensure the conversation that’s taking place doesn’t stop happening. That’s one of the great things about having the opportunity to play on the stage we will have.”
The coach said he has spoken with his players about their concerns regarding the momentum of this civil rights movement and their safety during the Covid-19 pandemic, and Snyder anticipates all healthy Jazz players will be willing to make the trek to Orlando next month as league play resumes.
“Our group is going to be intact headed to Orlando,” he said. “There are things that are bigger than basketball, and everybody is navigating this together.”
In fact, Snyder said he has had regular conversations with Jazz players about social justice issues and expressed his support for those men who have marched in protests or spoken out on social media against racism.
“I’ve been very proud of our players,” Snyder said. “… For them to express themselves intentionally and thoughtfully about the things that are important to them and society at large is something that’s good and thought provoking.”
All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell has been one of the team’s most active voices for justice, through posts on Twitter and Instagram. Some of those posts have been met by vitriol from fans both in and out of Utah.
“There were a lot of positive comments surrounding Donovan’s post. That said, there were also some comments that were abominable, and things that we all should never tolerate,” Snyder said. “To the extent you can rationalize some of those negative comments by saying there were positive comments, I think that’s a mistake. We all have to be diligent because as long as those [negative] comments are there, there’s work to be done.”
Snyder is also educating himself as he works with the NBA Coaches’ Association to address racial injustice.
“There’s a commitment and there’s a unity that all the coaches feel to … create lasting change,” the Jazz coach said.
He added, “We’ve had a lot of meetings and the education I’ve been able to receive on a number of issues is humbling in many ways, and it’s also inspiring.”
That kind of education, Snyder said, will be important for all Americans as we work toward progress and real change in our communities.
“The road from complacency to complicity is a slippery slope,” he said. “As we educate ourselves more and more, that complacency falls off, and then it’s an opportunity to act.”