Culture

Utah Company Gives Up Suite at Jazz Games Over Anthem Kneeling, BLM Promotion

Construction firm skewers NBA in letter: 'True heroes like Chris Kyle and Pat Tillman go unnoticed'

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A Utah company is giving up its suite at Jazz games, citing the players' decision to kneel during the national anthem. The company, Salt Lake County-based SME Steel Contractors, is asking the NBA franchise to "put a stop to all disrespectful actions during the anthem and remove the Black Lives Matter logo from the arena."

"The recent actions of the NBA—including the owners, coaches and players of the Utah Jazz—have converted a beloved entertainment venue into a forum for dissemination of political propaganda which is divisive and completely out of step with our company and its values," a Sept. 9 letter sent from Salt Lake County-based SME Steel Contractors to Jazz owner Gail Miller states.

SME confirmed the letter's authenticity, telling the Washington Free Beacon that the feedback the company has received on the letter has been "overwhelmingly positive."

"We have received emails and letters from individuals and companies throughout the country thanking us for standing up for the country, the national anthem, and the idea that sporting events do not need to be a venue for forcing controversial political views on patrons," SME general counsel Mark Wilkey said.

The NBA centered its July 30 restart around social justice, painting "Black Lives Matter" on its courts and allowing players to wear custom messages on their jerseys, including "Anti-Racist" and "Say Their Names." Jazz players kneeled during the national anthem before the first game of the restart, prompting a statement of support from the franchise, which stressed its commitment to "advancing social justice."

SME took issue with the decision, according to the letter. The company said that while it was "disappointed" to see the NBA season delayed by the coronavirus pandemic, "that disappointment pales … to the feelings we experienced when NBA games ‘restarted' on what appears to be a billboard for the ‘Black Lives Matter' movement."

"To say the least, it is ironic that pampered and exceptionally well-paid athletes cavalierly exercise their freedom bought for them through the courage and sacrifice of this nation's servicemen and women by disrespectfully kneeling during the country's anthem," the letter states. It went on to accuse the NBA of ignoring "true heroes like Chris Kyle and Pat Tillman" while promoting "names and tributes for felons."

The company also noted that it has licensed the suite for 28 years, paying roughly $6 million in ticket fees and at least $1 million for food and beverages. The letter states that the company was "personally involved in the fabrication and erection of steel for the venue now known as Vivint Smart Home Arena," calling the Jazz a "source of camaraderie, community pride and top-tier sports entertainment (regardless of the wins and losses)."

According to SME's website, the company "is one of the largest fabricators/erectors of structural steel in the United States." Founded in 1992, it has employed as many as 1,300 people and reached more than $450 million in peak annual revenue.

Jazz coach Quin Snyder—who sits on the NBA's committee for racial-justice reform and kneeled with his players during the NBA restart—has contributed $1,000 to GOP congressional hopeful Burgess Owens. Owens, who is black, has criticized Black Lives Matter, calling it a "Marxist organization." The Republican defended Snyder after the coach caught flack for the donations.

"How much do ‘black lives matter' to the people upset that a good man donated to the states ONLY BLACK CANDIDATE running for Congress, because he disagrees with their stance on BLM Inc.," Owens said in a Sept. 11 tweet. "Do black lives only matter when they think how you tell them to?"

A Utah Jazz spokesman told the Free Beacon that the franchise received the letter but declined to comment further.