Jazz fans raising funds for billboard to urge Gordon Hayward to stay in Utah

SALT LAKE CITY -- Born and raised in Utah, Garrett Jones has been a Utah Jazz fan his whole life.

"At a young age I got super excited about the Jazz," Jones said.

Knowing one of their star players could potentially leave after this season, he decided to take a shot at convincing him to stay.

"I just wanted to show him how much the fans love and appreciate him," Jones said.

Jones came up with the idea of putting up a billboard with one simple phrase on it: "Stayward." He's hoping Gordon Hayward will take note.

"We're going to try and put up a billboard between the practice facility and the Vivint Smart Home Arena, right there on the highway so you see it when you’re going to the games," Jones said.

He started a GoFundMe page Tuesday night to raise the $5,000 it would cost, and in less than 24 hours he's raised more than $1,400.

"I’m super surprised that it caught on that fast," Jones said.

Jones doesn't necessarily believe Hayward is going to leave, and, if he was, he doesn't think a billboard would be the deal-breaker, or maker for that matter.

"I don’t think he’s going to see a billboard and be like, 'Oh well that's what changed my mind. I’m going to stay here now,'" says Jones.

However, he wants Hayward to know how much the fans appreciate him, saying he's the perfect fit for the Utah Jazz both on and off the court.

"I don’t think it's necessarily an athlete’s job to be a role model, to be that kind of a person so kids can look up to him, but Gordon Hayward is," Jones said. "He’s everything you’d want in a role model."

However, Hayward has been on fire lately and this year he made the NBA All Star Team for the first time.

"He’s going to have his pick," Jones said. "Wherever he wants to go, they’re going to want him."

Some good news though, Hayward recently expressed admiration for loyal players in an interview with Fox 13.

"Every player has different situations for reasons why they leave or stay," Hayward said in March. "I think it’s definitely cool when guys play their whole career in one city. I grew up watching the Pacers, and Reggie stayed there his whole career."

We'll have to wait and see what happens after the season ends, and, like a true fan, Jones doesn't want his plan to distract Hayward from focusing on the most important thing: basketball.

"I’d hate for media members to be asking Gordon Hayward about it and like distracting him with that right before the playoffs," Jones said.

If the GoFundMe page exceeds its goal and raises more money than the billboard costs, Jones wants to donate the rest of the money to Hayward's charity of choice.