This author grew up in the shadow of the Carrier Dome and has defended Jim Boeheim for years. When he was getting unexpectedly bounced from the Big Dance, this author defended him. When Keith Smart hit that jumper, this author defended him. After forty years of sharing Syracuse basketball together, there have been few instances of criticism. When the Bernie Fine saga broke, it was suggested that perhaps the “all-in” strategy was risky, calling victims liars and resulting in a lawsuit against him. So take this next criticism for what it is–a rarity.
In his report from the Olympics, Jim Boeheim strayed from the expected topics–you know, basketball, the Olympics, and Rio–to discuss American politics. He specifically stated the following:
You don’t see the news down here. Not much, anyway. So we don’t talk a lot about Donald Trump. But I will say that it’s a sad state of affairs that he could be running for president.
He appeals to a certain radicalized part of the country that basically hates everything that’s going on, without reason. I hope, and think, that when we vote in November the American people will wake up and there will be the greatest landslide in our nation’s political history.
But like I said, we don’t talk about that stuff too much. We’re here to play eight games in 15 days and try to win a gold medal. That’s keeping us pretty busy.
Boeheim did not just express a “preference,” he came right out and criticized Donald Trump, belittled Trump’s followers, insulted those who think our country can and should be doing better, and went beyond “all-in” with respect to Hillary Clinton.
Look, Boeheim can do what he pleases. He can stay 1,000 miles from politics. He can ride in Hillary Clinton’s campaign bus and get a tattoo of her logo on his face. It is his life to do what he pleases.
However, he has clearly and intentionally insulted a significant portion of his fan base and the country. He has insulted this author. Though this article is written from the sun belt, it is written by a Syracuse fan from birth that has lived most of his life dealing with lake effect snow and scarves. Relative to substance, although the writer of this article seriously questions the direction of our country socially, politically, and religiously… it is with good reason and far from “without reason.”
To be sure, the fairest characterization is that both candidates are demonstrative of a “sad state of affairs.” While Donald Trump is a poor candidate, Hillary Clinton is an equally poor candidate. The former says some really dumb things, while the latter has done some really dumb things. And vice-versa. Neither inspire confidence, which makes their respective nominations all the more disconcerting if you really think about it. Although the Justice Department punted–or perhaps even “quick kicked” when comparing the explanation with the result–on the investigation into Clinton’s emails, has there ever been a major party candidate with such a history of scandal leading up to and including an FBI investigation during the campaign?
But Jim Boeheim did not say that or anything similar. Instead, he took a clear, specific position that just so happened to insult a portion of his fan base and the country. And, without even getting to whether he is “right” or “wrong,” Jim Boeheim has his own history of improper statements and behavior that make him a poor spokesperson on politics or morals. Want to investigate? How about these “sad states of affairs” involving Syracuse basketball under Boeheim:
- Casual Hoya lists a number of arrests involving Syracuse basketball players over Boeheim’s lengthy career. A large number of rape allegations.
- In 1992, Syracuse was placed on probation for two years, including a one-year post-season ban from the NCAA tournament for recruiting violations.
- Although Boeheim called the victims’ liars, the general consensus was that there was some credibility to the accusations against Boeheim’s long-time assistant coach Bernie Fine (who was ultimately terminated by Syracuse). Boeheim has been sued for his comments.
- In 2015, Syracuse basketball was again sanctioned by the NCAA–fairly severely–for violations of a several-year period.
Given the sexual scandals at Syracuse involving players and assistant coaches, and given Bill Clinton’s history, perhaps Boeheim and Hillary do have something in common.
Regardless, Boeheim has criticized the NCAA for sanctioning him for not knowing what was going on within the Syracuse program academically. Boeheim has claimed to not know what was going on inside his program relative to Bernie Fine and alleged molestation of children. Boeheim seems to have a lot on his plate keeping him from already doing his job to the fullest. In the meantime, there is no need for him to do a “bull in the china shop” routine in the delicate, political landscape. (Parenthetically, what did he mean by Trump “could be” running for President? Was this article written in early 2015?).
And do we really need entertainers using their cult of personality to influence politics? That seems to be an even sadder state of affairs. Americans should know who to vote for without knowing how any other famous person is voting.
For now, there is no protest or significant backlash. Boeheim has a long history of dumb statements that will cause many of his critics to move on quickly. Many Boeheim supporters will shrug off or rationalize these comments with the same vigor that Trump’s supporters shrug off or rationalize Trump’s ill-advised statements. The funny thing is that, in the end, isn’t this a pot criticizing a kettle? Another sad state of affairs.
What do you think? Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with Boeheim, do you find it in poor taste for him to include that political opinion in his report from Rio?