Donovan Mitchell reflects on time in Utah before first game against Jazz: ‘It was just draining on my energy’



No NBA city is perfect, but the one market that seems to constantly cause problems between players and fans is Salt Lake City. The Utah Jazz has played there for more than four decades, but a common thread during that time has been players’ frustrations with the actions of the fan base there. Both Russell Westbrook and Ja Morant have dealt with those fans over the years, but even Utah players themselves have struggled with their interactions with them.

Donovan Mitchell is one such player. He spent the first five seasons of his career in Utah, but now a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers, he talks about the way he was treated by fans in his native NBA city.

“It’s no secret that there are a lot of things I had to deal with while I was in Utah,” Mitchell told Andscaped’s Marc J. Spears. “If I’m being honest with you I never really said this but it drained me. It just drained my energy just because you can’t sit in your room and cheer for me and then do all these different things I’m not saying every fan specifically, but I just feel like it was a lot of things [Utah] state senator [Stuart Adams] say I need to learn about my own black history. Seeing black kids being bullied because of their skin color. Seeing a little girl [Isabella Tichenor] hang herself for being bullied.”

Now playing in the more diverse Cleveland, Mitchell called it “a blessing to be back around people who look like me”. He also told the story of a particularly stressful interaction with a police officer. “I was pulled over once. I got an attitude from a cop until I gave him my ID,” Mitchell explained. “And that forever made me wonder what happens to the young black kid in Utah who doesn’t have the strength to just be like, ‘This is who I am.’ And that was one of the things that I took to heart for me.”

Unfortunately, racism exists in every NBA market, and basically everywhere in the United States. It cannot be avoided completely. But Mitchell’s accounts of Utah are hardly exclusive to his experience there. Many players have raised concerns with the fans in Salt Lake City. Mitchell is happy to have found a new home, but it’s a shame he had to deal with these issues in the first place.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voice
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.


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