Dec 20, 2022 - News

Donovan Mitchell: Racism in Utah was "draining"

Donovan Mitchell interviews a reporter.

Donovan Mitchell is interviewed by a reporter on Dec. 6. in Cleveland. Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images

Donovan Mitchell is detailing his encounters with racism in Utah, from a state senator's insults to his efforts to help bullied Black children.

Driving the news: The three-time All-Star described his move to Cleveland as "refreshing" and "comforting" after vocal pushback from Utah fans when he challenged racism in predominantly white Salt Lake City.

  • "Man, it was just one thing after another. And I will say, it’s not the only place it happens. But for me … to receive the amount of pushback I got over the years, it was a lot," Mitchell said.

Details: He said his frustration grew after he posted an image that said "Free-ish" on Instagram to celebrate Juneteenth in 2020, while calling out continuing injustice against Black people. He was met with contempt from some fans.

  • He said he was demoralized by the bullying of Black children in Utah and specifically cited Izzy Tichenor's death by suicide. Her family alleges racist abuse from classmates and teachers in Davis County.
  • He also took issue with Utah Senate President Stuart Adams saying Mitchell "didn't understand" a bill urging the state school board to ban critical race theory. Mitchell opposed the bill.

The other side: Adams told Axios he did not "try to educate Donovan Mitchell on his 'own Black history.'"

  • Adams said his comments were "misconstrued" by the media and he has "great respect for Donovan."

The intrigue: Mitchell recalled a traffic stop in Utah where he "got an attitude" from the officer until he provided his ID.

  • "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.'"

Yes, but: Mitchell also reflected fondly on the chance to support Utah youth by inviting Black teens to games and attending high school games here.

  • "The biggest thing I’m proud of right now is just being able to be in the community," he said.

Context: Mitchell frequently advocated for racial justice in Utah and the U.S.

  • He and former Jazz player Rudy Gobert comforted a Pleasant Grove teen whose car was vandalized after years of racist bullying.
  • Mitchell criticized a North Ogden school that wanted to let kids opt out of Black History Month.
  • In the aftermath of the George Floyd protests of 2020, he wore a bulletproof vest with the names of Black people killed by police and asked, "Am I next?"

What's next: The Cavs and Jazz met for the first time this season Monday night. The Cavs won 122-99, with Mitchell scoring 23 points.

  • He makes his return to Salt Lake City on Jan. 10 when the two teams face off at Vivint Arena.

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