SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – There have been some well-documented racist incidents at Utah Jazz games the last few years.
From the Russell Westbrook incident a few years ago, to Ja Morant’s family being the target of racist taunts at a playoff game last month, whether it is true or not, Jazz fans have developed a national reputation of being racist.
Diehard Jazz fan Blair Hodges wants to change that.
“It’s embarrassing,” says Hodges, who is white. “I’ve gone from being defensive and saying, ‘not all Jazz fans, and I’m not racist,’ to actually saying we’ve just got to take ownership of this. We’ve earned this reputation because of racist incidents and racist things that happen, and now it’s on us to push back, to repair and to be better instead of denying that it’s an issue.”
Last year after the killing of George Floyd, Hodges founded a group called Jazz Fans Against Racism, which has over 3,700 followers on Twitter. Hodges wanted to join the voices of Donovan Mitchell, Mike Conley, Jordan Clarkson and others, who were speaking out on racial issues.
“I saw a need for fans to back up the players and to support them in what they were saying. Some fans here in Utah were saying, ‘just play basketball. We don’t want to worry about these political things.’ For me, I want to know what they feel. I want to know what they experience.”
Recently, Mitchell said he wants to speak with Utah lawmakers about Critical Race Theory, and there has been some backlash from Jazz fans on social media.
“Donovan shouldn’t be alone,” Hodges said. “Everyone should be rallying behind him. What a great leader he is to use his voice that way. It takes courage, and we’ve got to be there just like we are when he’s playing ball. We’ve got to be there when he’s talking about the issues that matter the most to him.”
Through the sale of hats, shirts, buttons and stickers, Hodges raised $2,600, which he donated to the newly founded Utah Black History Museum on Saturday.
“I looked for a black led organization that is dedicated to educating Utahns on these issues,” Hodges said. “The Black History Museum is new, and that’s exactly what it’s mission is to do.”
“It’s really great to connect with the Jazz fans specifically,” said Liz Lambson, vice president of the Black History Museum. “I love what he’s doing to invite the Jazz fans of Utah learn more about the culture of many of their players.”
Hodges says the best thing fans can do is educate themselves about racial issues, whether it is through reading, watching documentaries or talking to black people about their experiences.
“I’m a white person,” he said. “I don’t represent black people. I don’t have black experience. I can’t fully empathize with things that black people go through. But I can boost the voices of black people, and I can listen to the experiences of black people. Then, you can use that knowledge to talk to people about it. Talk to family, talk to friends, talk to co-workers, talk to people online. Fill the comments sections when we see negative comments, we’ve got to take over those comments sections and let people know that it’s not alright.”
If you want to donate to Jazz Fans Against Racism, click here.