Laura Seitz, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — 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."
Not just in Utah's capital, but also in 29 other NBA cities.
Becker isn't sure what impact, if any, the letter might have had so far in bargaining sessions. Though they didn't want to interfere with negotiations, the mayors — from Phoenix to Washington, D.C. — believed it was important that they stick up for their cities and their basketball fans.
The hope, Becker explained, was that the season would be saved and "everybody could win."
"(We) wanted to give them some encouragement," Becker said, "to try to get their differences addressed and allow the season to begin and bring the excitement and economic benefits that come to our cities. ...
"This is something that's really an important part of our communities," he added, "and we hope that they'll be thinking of the fans and those of us who participate with them."
Becker is excited to be able to follow the Jazz when the lockout ends.
He was stoked about the late-season emergence of Gordon Hayward last spring, and he has an optimistic outlook about the mixture of the team's talent and promising pieces.
"I know we've got an incredibly young team in many respects, but I don't think the talent level has ever been higher than what we'll have coming into this year," Becker said. "I'm really excited for this season to begin and to watch these guys develop."
NBA Mayors' letter
An open letter to the National Basketball Association and the NBA Players Union from America's Mayors:
We are the Mayors of our country's NBA cities. Every year, our residents pack the arenas where our teams play. They buy the NBA's products. They cheer for their favorite players with passion and intensity. They attend games and make lasting memories with family and friends. Many own or work at small businesses that depend on NBA games for survival. No matter how you look at it, our NBA teams are a vital part of the economic and social fabric of our cities.
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