SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The governor of Utah has defended his position to support a minority scholarship program sponsored by the Utah Jazz despite criticism from some who have called the program racist.
Republican Gov. Spencer Cox was asked last week on a radio show about an initiative started under new Jazz owner Ryan Smith for the team to offer a four-year scholarship to an underrepresented or minority student for each of the team’s wins this season, FOX13 reported Monday.
FOX13 reported that the unidentified caller asked Cox what he would do to stop the team from acting “in this racist manner?”
Cox told the caller that he did not think the program was racist and later reinforced his comments in a Twitter post saying, “if you’re outraged by a private individual trying to help disadvantaged minority kids go to college, then I’m definitely not your guy.”
Fox News host Tucker Carlson on Friday also called the program racist and accused Cox of “tribalism.”
“It should be illegal, but Spencer Cox, the Republican governor of Utah, is totally fine with it,” Carlson said. “What is shocking and really dispiriting is when you see it from Republicans.”
But Cox also received widespread support including from retired NBA legend Dwyane Wade, who called the governor “the real MVP.”
Wade’s comments came a day after he announced that he is buying a stake in the team’s ownership.
The Jazz did not comment on the criticism or Cox’s support of the program, but provided a statement explaining the reasoning behind the scholarship criteria.
The statement said people of color are underrepresented in the classroom and workforce and that the goal of the award is “to help directly address these gaps by providing scholarships to students of color who have historically received fewer resources and less support.”