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Editorial: It’s time for the Utah Jazz to move on from Papa John’s

The Utah Jazz have no business affiliating themselves with John Schnatter’s pizza company.

This phrase was synonymous with the second half of Utah Jazz as a Donovan Mitchell highlight dunk or Rudy Gobert dunk:

A Jazz win means 1/2 off pizza from @PapaJohns! Use the code JAZZ50 on your online order tomorrow for half-priced deliciousness.

With the Utah Jazz going on a historic comeback over the last half of the season, Utah Jazz fans heard that phrase a lot. Papa Johns got plenty of air time. Despite Papa John’s self inflicted controversy in November when CEO John Schnatter infamously blamed the NFL protests for his company’s weak sales, the Utah Jazz stuck to their sponsorship to the much maligned CEO for the entirety of the 2017-2018 season. The NFL eventually dropped Papa John’s as their official sponsor, opting for Pizza Hut.

Many cited that incident as a racist dog whistle while others said he was right to at least cite why sales were down. The controversy forced John Schnatter to step down as CEO of Papa John’s, but he stayed on with the company as Chairman.

The partnership between the Utah Jazz and Papa John’s since that incident has since been an uneasy one; not because fans don’t love a good half off pizza, but it seems odd in a professional basketball league that is 74.4% black to celebrate a win with pizza made by a company whose racist dog whistles are as loud as an official’s Fox 40. It also seems an odd pairing because the Utah Jazz are an organization that prides itself in doing the right thing.

Larry H. Miller bought the Utah Jazz on a hamstring budget of loans just to keep the Utah Jazz in the Beehive State. The Millers would then push for players who were “Jazzmen”. It’s always been an unspoken rule that Utah strives to find basketball players who are talented on the court and men of good character off the court. There’s been some misses, but that’s Utah’s standard. Then years later, Gail Miller put the Utah Jazz into a trust effectually keeping the Jazz in Utah for the foreseeable future. Then instead of partnering with a company for their jersey patch for all the $$$, the Utah Jazz partnered with 5 for the Fight, a charity. Now the time has come for the Utah Jazz organization to do the right thing again.

If anyone thought that John Schnatter, Papa John’s founder, wasn’t dog whistling racist undertones when he cited the NFL protests for his company’s underperforming sales quarter, Schnatter made sure to set the record straight in a recent board meeting.

“Colonel Sanders called blacks n-----s,” Schnatter said, complaining that Sanders had never received backlash, according to Forbes. He then cited how growing up in Indiana he saw black people drug from behind trucks to allegedly show how far we’ve come(?).

There’s no mincing words now. The Utah Jazz must severe ties with Papa Johns for their promotions and in game food. There’s plenty of other food chains that would better represent the Jazz’s values and not be a reminder of the worst that humanity has to offer. Bring in Cafe Rio for the Postgame win promotion, bring in Pizza Hut, bring in anything other than Papa Johns.

The Utah Jazz need to remove them from the arena, partnerships, promotions, and as a sponsor. They’re not worth the kindness that is in Gail Miller’s heart. Don’t put any of the Utah Jazz players in the terribly awkward and uncomfortable position of having their face and likeness associated with this brand. It’s not fair to them, your organization, or your fans.

[It’s not even that good of pizza. If we’re being real, they offer you that cup of garlic butter just to mask how bad their pizza is. Pro tip: just put garlic and butter in a microwave and make your own. You can dip way better quality pizza in that buttery goodness and you won’t be eating pizza from a company whose founder repeatedly has shown racist beliefs.]

The Utah Jazz can do better than Papa Johns. They can do right by their values as a Jazz organization, do right by their players, coaches, staff, and their fans. Utah must cut ties with this Schantter’s company. It’s time. If they’re going to hold their organization accountable in the community for how they treat others, they must extend that same accountability to their sponsors. Papa John’s has failed to do so twice in the same year. Utah can do better. Time to move on.