The Utah Jazz are rebutting an article in a Utah County newspaper linking the organization with a sports gambling ring recently broken up by several Wasatch Front law enforcement agencies.
A front-page story in the April 23 edition of the Utah County Journal says that police are trying to determine whether members of the Jazz are involved in a betting operation that spanned four counties. The story did not quote any law enforcement officials saying the Jazz were under investigation.Dave Allred, Jazz vice president for public relations, called the assumptions made in the story "illogical and irresponsible." He called the story an example of "small-town journalism."
Michael Morris, managing editor of the Journal, said the story is based on reliable sources.
"I know that we've seen a lot of information that will eventually come out," said Morris. "We know that there are some members and/or supporters of that organization that are being looked at."
Last week, more than 100 officers raided 15 homes and businesses in Salt Lake, Weber, Utah and Carbon counties associated with the gambling ring. They recovered more than $3 million in cash, gold, silver, diamonds and jewelry.
Ari Diamonds, Midvale, was among the businesses probed. The store is a Jazz sponsor. KISN radio, which broadcasts Jazz basketball games, aired advertisements for the business. The Journal story states that Jazz guard Darrell Griffith "regularly made promotional appearances for Ari Diamonds."
"The story and the attempt to correlate an association with illegal behavior with the Utah Jazz or its players was unfortunate and inaccurate," wrote Allred in a response to the report. "The fact that Ari Diamonds is a Jazz sponsor has no relevance to the story and should have not been a part of it."
Allred told the Deseret News that Griffith made one promotional visit to the diamond store.
Law enforcement officials investigating the case are tight-lipped about any aspect of it. Gordon Campbell, an assistant U.S. attorney assigned to the criminal investigation, would not comment Wednesday. He said he would reveal more about the entire case next week.
But Salt Lake County Sheriff's Capt. Joe Gee said of the implied Jazz connection, "I think that's some erroneous information."
"The very reputation of the Jazz, KISN and its player has been called into question by imputing that they had been involved in dishonest practices . . . " Allred said.
In American Fork, where the gambling probe originated, police Chief John Durrant said he doesn't have any reason to believe the Jazz organization is involved.
Griffith made an appearance at Ari Diamonds on Feb. 25, Allred said. A player appearance was part of contractual sponsorship agreement between the store and the Jazz, he said. Griffith's visit to the store was set up through the Jazz office.
"It's just a flip of the coin with whomever's available," Allred said of player promotional visits. The Jazz have more than 80 sponsors, and players routinely make personal appearances on behalf of those sponsors.
The story's logic "would also implicate someone accused of wrongdoing along with the company who makes the car he drives, the store where he shops or place where he works," Allred said.
Those who participated in the sports bookmaking operation are accused of taking bets from people throughout the country on professional and collegiate sporting events.