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Donovan Mitchell Discusses Racial Issues in Utah, Says It Was 'Draining on My Energy'

Rob Goldberg@@TheRobGoldbergFeatured Columnist IVDecember 20, 2022

DALLAS, TX - DECEMBER 14: Donovan Mitchell #45 of the Cleveland Cavaliers dribbles the ball up the court during the game against the Dallas Mavericks on December 14, 2022 at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images)
Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images

Donovan Mitchell said it's "comforting" being in Cleveland after dealing with racial issues as a member of the Utah Jazz, per Marc J. Spears of Andscape:

"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."

Mitchell spent his first five NBA seasons with the Jazz, earning three All-Star selections before an offseason trade to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

He noted that having a larger proportion of "people that look like me" in the crowds at Cavs games is a "blessing" after playing in front of predominantly white crowds in Utah. A census in 2021 estimated the white population in Salt Lake City at 72.5 percent, whereas Cleveland was said to have 47.4 percent Black or African American residents.

"I tried my best to make sure I invite young Black and brown kids to games, to be around the community," he said. "But just to not see us there, it was definitely tough. And being in Cleveland now, you see us courtside. It's just refreshing."

Mitchell said he experienced multiple off-court issues in Utah, including criticism from an Instagram post about Juneteenth and being called out by Utah Senate President Stuart Adams.

"As far as Utah, it became a lot to have to deal with on a nightly basis," Mitchell said. "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."

The 26-year-old, who originally hails from New York, has enjoyed his time with the Cavaliers and spending time in the community, noting he has attended a high school game (as he previously did in Utah) in addition to other sporting events.

Mitchell is also thriving on the court, averaging a career-best 29.3 points per game while helping Cleveland start the year with a 21-11 record.

On Jan. 10, he returns to Salt Lake City with the Cavaliers to take on the Jazz. Mitchell said he is "excited" to return: "You're there for five years. You lay roots there as far as relationships you build in the organization and with different people in the community. To come back again and play in front of the crowd will be dope."