NCAA should get Out of IN-DIANA


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The year was 1980 and my hometown of Jersey City was excited about having one of our own, Mike O’Koren, try out for the 1980 Olympic basketball team. O’Koren was a 2 time All-American at North Carolina and back then every 4 years our best college basketball players would compete for spots on our Olympic team. At that time America believed that sending our college kids to compete against grown-ass men from other countries was staying true to our legacy of having our amateurs beat the worlds very best.

That legacy came to an end in 1992 when we first sent our NBA pro’s to compete because the world was catching up to us in b-ball, and we couldn’t stand losing to anyone in the sport that we invented. My opinion on that move is another story for another day. For now, let’s go back to 1980 when O’Koren and hundreds of other American athletes trained hard to master their sport. They dedicated their lives for that one shining moment when they reached deep inside. That one shining moment when they knew they were alive. As a small kid who watched O’Koren sink jumpers at the neighborhood court I hoped he made the team. Then all of a sudden Mike making the team didn’t matter because his chance at that one shining moment was stolen from him and all Olympic hopefuls.

On Christmas Day in 1979 the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan without provocation. Our President, Jimmy Carter, responded to the Russian invasion by issuing an ultimatum – if the Soviets did not withdraw by 12:01 a.m. on Feb. 20, the United States would not send any athletes to the 1980 Summer Olympics that Russia was hosting in Moscow. Back then when our Presidents drew a red-line they actually followed through on it!!!

Carter wrote in a letter to Olympic Committee that the boycott was necessary to “make clear to the Soviet Union that it cannot trample upon an independent nation and at the same time do business as usual with the rest of the world.” Russia didn’t withdraw and America boycotted the Olympics along with 65 other countries.

Many feel that boycotting the Olympics was the wrong thing to do and that the best way to teach Russia a lesson was to go over there and kick Russian ass. I’m not one of them. Carter wanted to send the message via the boycott that the world was watching and not putting up with behavior that violates basic human principles. It’s a stand that now has to be imitated in Indiana by boycotting the NCAA Final Four weekend because of Indiana’s passing of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act allows private enterprises to legally discriminate and get a pass if they say it’s due to their religious beliefs. The most common example of this law being exercised is a florist not selling flowers to a gay couple for their wedding because homosexuality is a sin in their religion. And what’s to stop a business from serving certain races if their doctrine considers them less than human? Of course lawyers and politicians will argue there are more complexities to the law but that doesn’t excuse the discrimination from happening under the protection of this law until it’s fought in court rooms. It’s a slippery slope and it’s kind of fucked up, right?

The NCAA is the governing body of collegiate sports. They oversee the best interests of amateur athletes that attend the same schools the athletes from the 1980 Olympic team attended. If there ever was a governing body that had clout and legitimacy to protest against discrimination it’s the NCAA!

Colleges are our learning centers where people of all races, creeds, genders, and sexual preferences develop their minds together. It’s where sit-ins and protests were born. It’s where students have been tasered, beaten, and killed while they protested human injustices. So wouldn’t it be perfect for the NCAA to pull out of Indiana despite of the financial losses they would incur? Or do they cast aside their code of ethics and their revolutionary spirit because of the almighty dollar?

Ultimately Mike O’Koren didn’t make the final 1980 Olympic roster and was one of the final cuts. But he did get drafted by the NBA in the 1st round that year. O’Koren and most Olympic basketball players made it on to the NBA and had dreams come true there. However, swimmers, gymnasts, and track and field athletes never got a chance for their one shining moment. They missed their chance at glory so that the world can be reminded that humanity and justice must be checked. The basketball players at Duke, Michigan State, Kentucky, and Wisconsin are supposed to be college students FIRST so I would hope that they would understand the historical impact an NCAA boycott in Indiana would make.

Besides, nobody is beating Kentucky anyway!!!

The 1980 Olympic Team that never played

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