Back in March, the Jazz permanently banned a fan from attending Utah Jazz games at Vivint Smart Home Arena.
The ban was issued after racial comments were made at Oklahoma City Thunder guard, Russell Westbrook.
“A young man and his wife in the stands told me to get down on my knees ‘like you used to,’ ” said Westbrook.
Retired NBA player, Olden Polynice says that remarks like that from fans in Utah are nothing new.
“Typical,” Polynice told me on the Scoop B Radio Podcast.
Polynice,the eighth pick by the Chicago Bulls in the 1987 NBA Draft, was traded to the Seattle SuperSonics in exchange for Scottie Pippen, the fifth pick.
Worth noting: Polynice is an advocate for social justice.
An ambassador for his native Haiti, in 1993, he became the first U.S. athlete to ever join a hunger strike. He did it while in-season to protest the treatment of HIV-positive Haitian refugees imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay and to challenge the Clinton Administration’s refusal to change the United States’ immigration policy toward Haitians.
Polynice played for the Jazz for two seasons from 1999-2001 and averaged 5.3 points and 5.1 rebounds.
While sitting on the bench during his two seasons with the Jazz, Polynice says that he and former Utah Jazz players would count how many blacks were sitting in the arena during games.
“You could literally count the people in the stands,” Polynice recounted.
“Me and Bryon Russell used to sit on the bench and say: ‘lets count black people and make a game of it.’
The reaction that Westbrook got from Jazz fans in Utah is nothing new according to Polynice.
“I have seen it and I never liked it,” he said.
“That is why I tell people all the time: ‘unless I get a coaching job; then I have to go to Utah.’ But I have not stepped foot in Salt Lake City since I left in 2002. And I refuse because there is blatant racism and there is overt racism; it is all there. If you look in the stands there are only like ten black people in the stands outside of the players.”
Utah Jazz owner, Gail Miller addressed the incident back in March before a Jazz game.
“This should never happen,” she said.
“We are not a racist community. We believe in treating people with courtesy and respect as human beings. From time to time, individual fans exhibit poor behavior and forget their manners. Some disrespect players on other teams. When that happens, I want to jump up and shout, ‘Stop!’ We have a code of conduct in this arena. It will be strictly enforced.
“Everyone who comes here, visiting teams included, deserves the right and the expectation to be treated with dignity at all times. When bad incidents like Monday night happen, it not only affects the player it’s directed at; it also affects our players. Other teams are not our enemies. They are our competition. Competition is a good thing. It allows players to showcase their talents, and it allows fans to encourage, appreciate, cheer for and enjoy those who share those talents with us.”
“I was more surprised by Gail Miller’s response,” Polynice told Scoop B Radio.
“It was the first time someone stepped [in]. So, I was pleasantly surprised by that, so to me, it really hurt, I got called the N-word in Salt Lake City. One time, Iknocked th guy out and lucky for me, there were police officers nearby that heard him say it, so nothing came of it. They actually arrested him afterward. It used to happen all the time back then and that was before Donald Trump. Not everything is about Donald Trump. This stuff was happening before him. As for Russell Westbrook, I think he handled the situation pretty well outside of threatening the female.“