The ripple effect of coronavirus: How Rudy Gobert and a Salt Lake City community both became its victims
It’s March 9, at the Vivint Smart Home Arena and a group of girls, parents, a staffer, a volunteer and two board members of Girls on The Run Utah watch a nailbiter between the Utah Jazz and Toronto Raptors. For International Women’s Day, for every shot he blocks, Rudy Gobert will donate $1,000.
After the game, the girls tour the arena. They venture down to courtside, taking in the magnetic aura of an empty arena. Gobert emerges from the tunnel in a white hoodie and black sweats, high-fiving the girls, commiserating and snapping selfies, before posing behind a human-sized check. Gobert’s foundation, Rudy’s Kids, reached out to Girls on the Run, who reached out to the Urban Indian Center of Salt Lake and asked if any Native American children would be interested in attending.
The daughters of Samantha Eldridge, a Native American mother of two, were among the group that attended. “For many of these girls, they’re not ever going to have the opportunity to even go to a Jazz game. That was huge,” Eldridge, 40, said. “It was even more exciting that they were able to go to the bottom, to be on the court and meet a player. I know that they felt special.”
The next afternoon, Eldridge tweeted a picture of the girls and Gobert, captioned, “Huge thank you to @rudygobert27 @RudysFoundation for inviting the UICSL (Urban Indian Center of Salt Lake), Girls on the Run to the game last night! We appreciate Rudy taking time to meet the girls & for his generous donation to inspire the girls to continue to pursue their limitless potential. #NativeYouth #GoJazz.”
Two days later, the notifications started piling up.
At the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, the coronavirus collided with professional sports. Gobert tested positive for COVID-19. The game was canceled. Shortly after, the NBA season was suspended. Jazz teammates and staffers were trapped in the visitors’ locker room at the behest of the Oklahoma State Department of Health, which decided it was in the public interest to use 58 out of a supply of 100 daily tests on the Jazz’s traveling party. Neither the Jazz, Rudy Gobert nor his foundation responded to requests for comment. In the aftermath, Gobert pledged to donate $500,000 to Vivint Smart Home Arena part-time workers, as well as coronavirus relief efforts in Utah, Oklahoma City and his home country of France.
As she was growing up, state Rep. Patrice Arent said there was a simple expectation in her family: “Women get involved. Women vote."
And leaders of the nonprofit Voterise are hoping that other women in Utah take that to heart this Valentine’s Day — which is also the state’s first Women’s Voter Registration Day and the 150th anniversary of a Utah woman being the first to vote under an equal suffrage law in the country.
“Women need to get up from the sidelines and start playing the game,” said Hope Zitting-Goeckeritz, Voterise’s director of operations, at a news conference Friday at the Capitol.
Following Arent’s mantra, Voterise announced its plans to get out the vote especially for the holiday. It will host voter registration drives at more than 10 high schools and colleges to get women ready to cast their ballots. The state representative sees that as the first step to “getting involved.”
The rate of women voting in the Beehive State has fluctuated widely in recent decades. Utah plunged from having the highest turnout of female voters in the country in 1992 — known nationally as the Year of the Woman — to the nation’s lowest 14 years later. In the 2016 and 2018 elections, the number of women voting in the state bounced back up again, according to a September report from the Utah Women and Leadership Project.
But there are still 316,000 women here who are citizens but not registered to vote. To try to change that, Voterise created its 2020 Challenge with a goal of registering 20,000 new potential female voters. It kicks off on Feb. 14.
Murray Councilwoman Rosalba Dominguez said she set a personal goal of registering at least 100 women to vote and is challenging other elected officials to do the same. Her focus, she noted, is women of color.
At the Jan. 7 Oath of Office ceremony, Murray City Council welcomed two new members who also represent many new firsts for Murray. The 2019 election brought in a wave of elected women throughout Utah, which seismically shifted the gender balance of not only Murray but Bountiful, South Salt Lake, Millcreek, and Sandy city councils.
“People move to Murray for our exceptional services, and they stay in Murray because of our exceptional community,” newly elected City Councilor Kat Martinez said after she took the oath of office. “A hundred years ago, women earned the right to vote across the United States, and now for the first time, I am so honored to be part of Murray’s first female majority on the city council.”
Martinez, a mother of three young children, will retain her position as a trainer for the State of Utah Health Department. She has given up her seat on the boards of Murray City Arts Advisory Board and the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault. Martinez will be in the minority of the council of holding a full-time job, as Dale Cox, Diane Turner, and Brett Hales are all retirees.
The first Latino member of the city council, Rosalba Dominguez, said in her inaugural remarks, “I have always said that my parents and family were some of the first brown people in the state of Utah. In the ’80s, everyone knew everyone in the Mexican community; it was that small.” Local Latin-American folk guitarist Anastasio Castillo performed a musical number in Spanish during the oath of office ceremonies.
For Murray and Rosalba Dominguez, it will be a series of firsts with her election to Murray City Council: First Hispanic American on the council, member of the first female-majority city council, and first to be engaged-to-be-married while elected for city office. Dominguez defeated another first-time candidate, Adam Thompson, in the Nov. 5 election.
Dominguez currently teaches art classes at the Clever Octopus, a local art advocacy organization based in Murray. She is also a freelance graphic designer assisting clients with various branding and marketing campaigns.
Although she grew up as a third-generation Murrayite, she attended Judge Memorial Catholic High School in Salt Lake City, where she met her future fiancé, Matt Parks. After graduation, she attended Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara, California, where she received a bachelor’s degree in film and photography.
By Taylor Stevens ·
During her six years on the Murray City Council, Diane Turner has gotten used to being the only woman in the room making decisions that affect the day-to-day lives of the municipality’s nearly 50,000 residents.
But that time is soon coming to an end, after Murray voters elected their first female-majority City Council this month in an election that brought historic wins for women across the Wasatch Front.
“I still can’t believe it," Turner said. “I think when you have more women, it changes everything.”
Utah has historically had lower-than-average female representation at all levels of politics. But advocates say it’s important to elect women to public office because they tend to reach across the aisle, compromise more and come up with different solutions than an all-male body would, thanks in part to their different life experiences.
“I’m really excited to see what is to come of it,” Murray City Councilwoman-elect Rosalba Dominguez said of the new council makeup. “I think people were just ready for change — especially in Murray, [which] historically has had men run the city.”