NBA players will quietly say they hear offensive, racist comments from fans — on and off the court — in basically every city, but there are a few places where it is more common than others. Boston is one.
Utah is always near the top of that shameful list. Dwane Wade had issues there, Russell Westbrook has had run-ins with fans there, and more recently Ja Morant‘s family heard lewd and racist remarks from some fans there. It’s certainly not everyone, but players feel those moments are more common in Utah.
Donovan Mitchell said the racial issues in Salt Lake City and the state were draining for him. During a wide-ranging interview with Marc Spears of ESPN’s Andscape, Mitchell was honest about the situation and said repeated situations in Utah wore him down.
It’s no secret there’s a lot of stuff that I dealt with being in Utah off the floor. If I’m being honest with you, I never really said this, but it was draining. It was just draining on 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 specifically every fan, but I just feel like it was a lot of things. A [Utah] state senator [Stuart Adams] saying I need to get educated on my own Black history. Seeing Black kids getting bullied because of their skin color. Seeing a little girl [Isabella Tichenor] hang herself because she’s being bullied.
Man, it was just one thing after another. And I will say, it’s not the only place it happens. But for me, I’m continuing to be an advocate for [racial equality] and to receive the amount of pushback I got over the years, it was a lot.
Mitchell added this story to emphasize his point.
But as far as Utah, it became a lot to have to deal with on a nightly basis. I got pulled over once. I got an attitude from a cop until I gave him my ID. And that forever made me wonder what happens to the young Black kid in Utah that doesn’t have that power to just be like, ‘This is who I am.’ And that was one of the things for me that I took to heart.
Mitchell has spoken highly of individuals and experiences he had in Utah, but the sense that a lot of people didn’t understand what he was experiencing, that they didn’t relate (or wouldn’t) eventually became an issue. Mitchell said the experience in Cleveland — a much more racially diverse city — has been different.
Mitchell has been playing the best basketball of his career in Cleveland, including scoring 23 on Monday night to lead his current team to a comfortable win over his old one, 120-99. This season the Cavs have put Mitchell in a better situation for him on the court, and his scoring and shot creation have sparked the Cavaliers to a 21-11 start to the season. His feeling comfortable likely has something to do with his level of play as well.