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Local Sports Athletes, Executives React To Salt Lake City Protest

Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell drives past Golden State Warriors guard Damion Lee (1) at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City on Friday, Dec. 13, 2019. (Laura Seitz, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Local Utah athletes and executives took to Twitter during and after the protest that was held in downtown Salt Lake City on Saturday night.

The protest began around 11 a.m. MT on Saturday morning near the Salt Lake City library that was intended to be peaceful before hours later, protesters found a police car where they flipped the vehicle over and set it on fire. That led to another vehicle being set on fire. Police controlled the situation hours later and arrested 41 protesters.

The protest took place after George Floyd died after being handcuffed and pinned to the ground by a Minnesota police officer. Footage of the officer’s knee on Floyd’s neck has led to riots in the streets of Minneapolis. That officer has been arrested.

Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell reacted to the video that was released on Twitter of a civilian pulling out a cross bow and arrow before being beat up by protesters. Mitchell said “this is sick… just the thought is sick… shooting bow and arrows at protesters.”

The man was taken by police out of the crowd when protesters flipped his car over and set it on fire.

Former Utah Jazz president and current CEO of the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies Steve Starks sent out a tweet thread about the George Floyd death at the hands of Minnesota police officers.

During the Salt Lake City protest on Saturday night, Utah Utes Athletic Director Mark Harlan asked protesters to protest peacefully.

“SLC is not immune to the hopelessness and fear of the underrepresented communities,” Harlan said on Twitter. “As a leader, I need to do more everyday, to be more aware and act on their behalf. I strongly urge all to protest peacefully and avoid the violence we are seeing. Causing more pain is not the path.”

University of Utah leadership released a statement on Sunday regarding the protests nationwide and in Salt Lake City along with their commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.

Dear campus community,

The anger, hurt, fear and frustration that so many members of our community are feeling—especially our black students, staff and faculty—is profound. George Floyd’s name must now be added to those of others who’ve been victims of systemic oppression and violence: Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner and Michael Brown, to name just a few.

Their deaths, along with far too many others, have most visibly exposed our society’s deeply rooted racism, inequities and white supremacy. In recent days, this painful fact has drawn tens of thousands of people together in peaceful solidarity, including here in Salt Lake City, to demand accountability and change. The power of this moment is diminished, as so eloquently stated on Saturday by Utah leaders, when peaceful protest turns violent.

As the flagship university, the University of Utah is positioned to support state leaders in their efforts to shape criminal justice reform, promote social justice and equity, and address pervasive racism. This spring, we began a series of campus conversations designed to bring community leaders and scholarly experts together in search of understanding and solutions to racism, oppression and hatred. That work will continue with renewed vigor and intensity.

We are committed to equity, diversity and inclusion at the University of Utah and are steadily progressing in our efforts to make this historically white institution more representative of and responsive to the diverse communities we serve.

We join Pastor France Davis and state lawmakers Sandra Hollins, Angela Romero, Karen Kwan, Mark Wheatley, Luz Escamilla and Jani Iwamoto in urging Utahns to make their voices heard peacefully, respectfully and safely—important as the health and well-being of our community continues to be compromised by coronavirus, which also has underscored the deep inequities in our society.

Our ability to support and help one another is challenging right now given that physical distancing is a necessity. Our campus resources remain open and available for those who need someone to talk to at this time.

For now, please know we share a commitment to creating a compassionate, equitable and just society for all.

Former Major League Baseball great Dale Murphy posted a thread on Twitter about an incident involving his son at a protest.

“Last night my son was shot in the eye with a rubber bullet while peacefully protesting for justice for George Floyd,” Murphy said on Twitter. “His story is not unique. Countless others have also experienced this use of excessive police force while trying to have their voices heard. Luckily, his eye was saved due to a kind stranger that was handing out goggles to protesters shortly before the shooting and another kind stranger drove him to the ER. Others were not so lucky and will be permanently disabled due to excessive police force.”

“As terrible as this experience has been, we know that it’s practically nothing compared to the systemic racism and violence against Black life that he was protesting in the first place,” Murphy continued in the Twitter thread. “Black communities across America have been terrorized for centuries by excessive police force. If you’re a beneficiary of systemic racism, then you will not be able to dismantle it at no cost to yourself. You will have to put yourself at risk. It might not always result in being physically attacked, but it will require you to make yourself vulnerable.”

Trevor Allen is a Utah Utes Insider for KSLSports.com and host of the Crimson Corner podcast. Follow him on Twitter: @TrevorASportsYou can download and listen to the podcast, here.

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