Like many of the people he serves, Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker is a huge Utah Jazz fan. He attends a few games each year. He TIVOs and watches most Jazz telecasts, and is a daily follower of the franchise for six-plus months a year. And, yes, he wants the NBA lockout to be over. That’s why Becker and 13 other mayors, including ex-NBA standout Kevin Johnson of Sacramento, recently co-signed an open letter to NBA owners and players, hoping to persuade the two sides to resolve the labor-deal impasse and get the ball rolling on the 2011-12 season.
Call it their “Occupy NBA Arenas” movement. “I want to be able to enjoy the Jazz,” Becker said Tuesday afternoon while owners and the players’ union negotiated with a federal mediator. “I hope on a personal level they get going, because I love following them (the Jazz) and seeing these players develop and the coaching and all the dynamics that goes on — and I hope for their success. “But,” Becker continued, “it’s also really important in our community.” Sports clubs and bars benefit from every Jazz game, even the ones on the road. And the annual 41-plus Jazz home games bring a stream of people and revenue into the city’s restaurants, the arena, parking lots and other businesses. That, obviously, sparks the SLC economy. Also, the mayor added, “It brings a fair amount of vitality downtown.”