SALT LAKE CITY — As the Utah Jazz prepare to face the defending champion Golden State Warriors at Vivint Arena tonight, there will be a different man inside the iconic Jazz Bear mascot.
Longtime mascot Jon Absey was fired this week, according to a Deseret News source.
There will be a new face inside the mascot on a trial basis, but not Absey, after a rift with the staff, the source disclosed.
“Jazz Bear will continue to be one of the most iconic mascots in the NBA,” said Jazz spokesman Frank Zang. “Out of respect for his character, which is separate from any employee ever associated with it, we have never discussed his identity. We do not discuss individual personnel matters.”
Absey worked over 800 home games as the Jazz Bear since it was introduced in 1994.
He also anonymously appeared in a TV spot in which Zions Bank highlighted his two concussions, seven surgeries and 17 ligament tears.
In August, Jazz Bear was named the NBA’s Mascot of the Year for the third time since the league started handing out the honor in 2005. The Information Display and Entertainment Associated also honored the Jazz and Bear for the best in-arena mascot video in professional sports, where he engaged in a car derby with the Phoenix Suns Gorilla.
Jazz Bear was inducted into the Mascot Hall of Fame in 2006, was given the Mascot Leadership Award nine times and has helped raised more than $1 million for charitable causes, according to Jazz PR.
Deseret News attempts to reach Absey were unsuccessful.