THE SPORTS DOCTOR- Traitor! Hammond takes her ball and leaves
The most infamous player in the WNBA isn't American. At least she isn't anymore. Becky Hammon, native of Rapid City, South Dakota, is now a Russian national. Zdorov'ya!
Remember Gregory Hines' character in White Nights? Hines played Raymond Greenwood, an American tap dancer who defected to the Soviet Union after he fought in Vietnam. Greenwood trusted America, and his country failed him, "turning [him] into a hired killer."
Greenwood didn't just cross a border; he defected. He had a point to make and knew the best way to shame the US of A was to publicly and noisily desert it. Slap.
Becky Hammon's America has failed her, too. The All-Star point guard for the Silver Stars has been denied a spot on the U. S. Olympic basketball team twice and has publicly and noisily taken her business elsewhere.
"I still love my country– it doesn't really have anything to do with that. I just want to play basketball," Hammon told ESPN.
Who is she, Rosa Parks? Hammon has been playing professional basketball since 1999. Exactly who has stopped the 10-year WNBA veteran from playing?
"The jersey that I wear has never made me who I was. It has nothing to do with what's written on my heart," Hammon told ESPN.com. "Will I be playing for Russia? Yes. But I'm absolutely 100 percent still an American."
I guess Becky was too busy practicing her foul shot to pay attention in her middle school Civics class. If an American accepts citizenship in another country, she ain't an American no more.
In America, the swapping of citizenship usually means athletes come here, often from countries with little or no opportunity, not to mention histories of war, genocide, and oppression. No one is going to criticize 1,500-meter runner Lopez Lomong, a Lost Boy of the Sudan, for becoming an American citizen.
Lomong didn't walk all the way to Kenya then defect to America to win an Olympic medal– and there's the rub. How one views defectors is all about the motivation. Lomong had a legitimate and poignant story, but some folks have more selfish motives, and Becky Hammon is among them.
"There's nothing I wanted more in my basketball career than to represent the United States," Hammon told ESPN. "I grew up dreaming to play in the Olympics for my home country."
Exactly. The Games are synonymous with national pride: it's their backbone. The Olympics aren't just about competing; they're about national anthems, hometown parades, and one flag flying a little higher than the rest.
I don't know why Becky Hammon wasn't chosen to be on the U.S. team, but how does a self-proclaimed patriot justify defecting to Russia? For two weeks of basketball? When did her Olympic dream become more about her than her country?
Hammon has every right to defect, but she also must face the consequences. While Hammon and her defenders protest that she loves America and is no traitor, I offer this: she may not be Benedict Arnold, but Hammon is a traitor pure and simple.
Hammon is a traitor to the Olympics themselves, to the idea of foregoing personal glory to compete for a larger and nobler purpose.
"I love our country. I love what we stand for. This is an opportunity to fulfill my dream of playing in the Olympics," Hammon claimed.
It's not "our" country anymore, Becky; whatever your reasons, it's not your country at all. Unless of course, you were talking about Russia.