Republicans Buy NBA Tickets Too: Stan Van Gundy Thinks We Actually Care What He Believes About The 2016 Election
Back when he was the King of the NBA, Michael Jordan was constantly being sought by political groups to support black and liberal causes. Jordan always demurred. When pressed on his silence, Jordan said simply, “Republicans buy running shoes, too.” A man with a stake in the running-shoe millions through is Air Jordans understood the nature of bipartisanship in a very practical manner.
Until he supported Stephen Harper in the 2015 federal election, Wayne Gretzky largely heeded Jordan’s counsel, too. Most sports superstars also emulated Jordan. Why alienate your fan base, tarnish your legacy and invite scorn by getting caught up with domestic politics? Anything you say will irritate half the population.
Then there’s Detroit Pistons head coach Stan Van Gundy. After his team had been blown out by 32 points in Los Angeles, Van Gundy was asked about the stunning outcome that left Donald Trump and the Republicans in control of every level of government in the USA-- except the mayorships of large urban cities. Van Gundy unburdened himself.
“But for our country to be where we are now, who took a guy who -- I don’t care what anyone says, I’m sure they have other reasons and maybe good reasons for voting for Donald Trump -- but I don’t think anybody can deny this guy is openly and brazenly racist and misogynistic and ethnic-centric, and say, ‘That’s OK with us, we’re going to vote for him anyway.'
“We have just thrown a good part of our population under the bus, and I have problems with thinking that this is where we are as a country. It’s tough on (the team), we noticed it coming in. Everybody was a little quiet, and I thought, ‘Well, maybe the game the other night.’ And so we talked about that, but then (player) Aron Baynes said, ‘I don’t think that’s why everybody’s quiet. It’s last night.’
Van Gundy went on to say that his daughters had somehow been disenfranchised by the Trump win. “It’s just, we have said -- and my daughters, the three of them -- our society has said, ‘No, we think you should be second-class citizens’.”
Now, understand that the NBA is 80 percent black and the Pistons have just two white players on the roster. It is a thoroughly urban sport steeped in liberal cities like Boston, New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Van Gundy himself was brought up in the liberal enclave of California’s Bay area, He comes by his politics naturally.
So when these sensitive multimillionaires told their coach that not getting their way in the election had messed with their jump shots and paralyzed the Pistons pick-and-roll Van Gundy was sympathetic. No “the show must go on” for him and the Pistons.
No doubt Van Gundy is genuine in his lurid ramblings. But, like the SNL pearl clutchers who appropriated Leonard Cohen to lament Hillary Clinton’s face plant in the election, Stan hasn’t quite got the message yet. Yes he has a right to complain, but nobody cares what Hollywood and the sports biz feels about the new president.
The repudiation of Barack Obama’s America was wide and broad. In fact, the Pistons home state of Michigan went for a GOP candidate for the first time in decades. It told the nation that it was exhausted by the same old/ same same old. It was giving someone a chance in the same way Van Gundy might give another point guard a chance to lead his losing team.
What did Van Gundy do? Faced with a clear electoral statement from the ticket buyers— yes, Republicans buy NBA tickets— the Detroit coach still thought it important to slag Trump. To say what my team and I feel is far more important than your historic statement on election day.
It’s the same hubris that brought down the Obama legacy— remember he said he’d be personally insulted if blacks didn’t support Hillary?
In defence of Van Gundy, legendary San Antonio coach Greg Popovich was also critical of Trump’s election in a state that has voted Republican forever. He thought it important to exercise his Second Amendment rights to tell the consumers where to get off with their choice. Mind you, both coaches make the kind of money that can largely ignore the people who buy the logos and tickets.
What’s also remarkable is that the owner of the Pistons has made no public statement to tell the people whom his head coach has insulted that they’re still loved by his team. He's let Van Gundy's rant stand. Ditto, the owner of the Spurs seems to have lost his tongue when it comes to the folks who buy the luxury boxes in San Antone.
The league has similarly turtled to the tantrums of its head coaches and entitled players. Now, imagine if Van Gundy or Popovich had come out in favour of Trump’s mandate to deport illegals and build a wall to secure the border? Would NBA commissioner Adam Stern have been silent if they’d slagged the record of Barack Obama the past eight years? Not likely.
The NBA won’t be the only sports league that doesn’t know want to do about Trump. Earlier this year, the PGA Tour took sides when Trump first announced his plans for the Mexican wall and immigration reform. The Tour took its Miami event away from Trump’s Doral golf resort to placate the liberal caterwaulers. The golf course owner who is now their president. Mmm, awkward.
How’s that working for you now, Tim Finchem?
Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy. Bruce is the host of podcast The Full Count with Bruce Dowbiggin on anticanetwork.com. His career includes successful stints in television, radio and print. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada's top television sports broadcaster, he is also the best-selling author of seven books. He was a featured columnist for the Calgary Herald and the Globe & Mail.