Mayor Trent Staggs discusses Kyrie Irving

Dallas Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving pushed back against reports he asked for the removal of a sign a fan was holding during Monday’s game against the Utah Jazz. But, at one point during the first quarter, Irving and the fan were seen having some sort of exchange.

The fan was later identified as Avremi Zippel, a rabbi and longtime Jazz season ticket holder. Zippel sat courtside during the New Year’s Day game with a sign that said, “I’m a Jew and I’m proud.” The message appeared to reference the backlash Irving faced after he posted a link to an antisemitic film on social media in 2022. Irving was a member of the Brooklyn Nets at the time.

Irving initially declined to apologize for the post, prompting the Nets to suspend him indefinitely Nov. 3, 2022. One day later, Nike announced the company had trminated its relationship with the star.

Riverton, Utah, Mayor Trent Staggs made an appearance on Dan Dakich of Outkick’s “Don’t @ Me” show and discussed Irving and the courtside sign. Riverton is located about 20 miles from the Jazz’s home arena.

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Kyrie Irving of the Dallas Mavericks during a game against the Utah Jazz at Delta Center Jan. 1, 2024, in Salt Lake City.  (Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)

“If that sign is distracting to an NBA player, I think he needs to get a new line of work,” Staggs told Dakich. “I’ve been to so many Jazz games where they’ve passed out towels that we wave and thunderclap sticks and so many other things that I would find so much more distracting than a sign.”

UTAH RABBI REHASHES SIGN FIASCO DURING JAZZ GAME AS KYRIE IRVING’S REP DENIES STAR LODGED COMPLAINT

Zippel is believed to have attended the game with a group that included some of his family members and other rabbis.

Irving reportedly attempted to make it clear that he feels “no disrespect” for the rabbis. 

“I wish him and his family well,” Irving said Wednesday via The Athletic. “No disrespect going his way. That’s not my MO.”

Kyrie Irving dribbles

Dallas Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving (11) dribbles the ball against the Utah Jazz during the first half at the Delta Center in Salt Lake City Jan. 1, 2024. (Christopher Creveling/USA Today Sports)

Zippel said Jazz representatives approached him and asked him to put the sign away or switch to seats a few rows back. Zippel also claimed he was given conflicting explanations for why he may not have been permitted to display the sign in the front row.

Zippel told The Athletic he and his group took a picture with the signs before the game, and arena security did not raise any concerns at the time.

Lauri Markkanen drives

Dallas Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving (11) defends Utah Jazz forward/center Lauri Markkanen (23) during the first half at the Delta Center in Salt Lake City Jan. 1, 2024. (Christopher Creveling/USA Today Sports)

According to Staggs, Zippel looked into the arena guidelines on fan signage before he entered the building.

“(The sign) was 11 inches by 17 inches, which the rabbi checked out the Jazz’s audience code of conduct and made sure that the sign was within the limits … the regulation size. So, he was well within his right to have that sign,” Staggs said.

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The Jazz released a statement saying the organization did not take issue with the signs’ messages, but said the signs were removed due to their interference with the game.

“The part-time employee who told the fans it was the content of the sign that was the problem was incorrect. The issue was the disruptive interaction caused by usage of the signs, not the content of the signs,” the team said in its statement.

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