He's gotta go: Pistons' owner didn't listen to players

Before I get to anything else, let me thank heaven the Carmelo Anthony trade is over and we don’t have to hear the entire world talk about it anymore.

We only have to hear Carmelo Anthony talk about it– see Twitter for continuing rants and raves such as “WHEN THE GRASS IS CUT THE SNAKES WILL SHOW” (all caps were ‘Melo’s). Thank you, heaven.

Folks who’ve been following the national news know that pro-union rallies are popping up all over the country in solidarity with Wisconsinites who are being crushed under their governor’s heel. The situation in Madison has galvanized unions in a way not seen since the Reagan administration (fat lot of good that did). Union backers are staging protests in Ohio, Hawaii, Washington, New Jersey, Indiana and Nevada.

But a protest in Detroit isn’t inspiring similar support.

Last Friday ESPN reported that seven Detroit Pistons, including Tracy McGrady, Tayshaun Prince, Richard Hamilton and Chris Wilcox, skipped all or most of that morning’s practice to protest the team’s head coach, John Kuester. While several of the players weakly denied that their absences were indicative of a protest, it’s clear the majority of the Pistons’ roster want John Kuester fired yesterday– and they’re being vilified for it.

All too often the sports media fail to call winning athletes on their indulgent and self-important behavior, letting them get away with murder (literally sometimes) with nary a critical word. (Do you really need an example? Cam Newton).

But the poor Detroit Pistons, in the middle of what will surely be their third consecutive losing season, deserve no mercy.

“A shameful situation,” Peter Vecsey, The New York Post.

“Insubordination… disdain, disrespect and total disregard,” Stephen A. Smith, ESPN.

“The players are one big joke,” Joseph Karbousky, Gather.

Doesn’t anyone see the bigger picture?

What the Detroit Free Press confirms was a protest is much more than “a black eye for the league”— that’s what Lakers’ coach Phil Jackson called it in an interview with Sports Illustrated. While the players who staged it are surely “pampered and privileged” (ESPN's Smith), that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have a voice.

The players can’t stand Kuester, but they treated him like garbage long before last Friday’s protest. They’ve openly cursed at him, laughed behind his back, and ignored him in the huddle– and that’s undeniably humiliating, juvenile, and shameful behavior.

But it’s not behavior that came out of nowhere. No matter how nice and personable Kuester is off the court, his performance as a head coach has been dismal, and by all rights the Pistons should have fired him during the All-Star recess. But Kuester remains, so what’s a frustrated player to do?

When Smith and others write about needing “law and order” and a “return to the rules of yesteryear,” they’re showing their ignorance. It wasn’t too long ago that athletes were nothing but chattel with no control over their location, salaries, and careers in general. League and owner control of players was both total and unfair (a prime example is Charlie Finley and his Oakland A’s)– that was the rule of yesteryear when law and order reigned in sports.

Players today may have higher salaries and free agency, but basically they're still chattel and often resort to brattish behavior because their opinions aren’t taken seriously. The protest, the cursing, the laughing, and the disrespect are atrocious, but it’s obvious the Pistons have been trying unsuccessfully to bend their owner’s ear about Kuester for a long time.

So rather than insult and shame the seven players who didn’t show up for practice, maybe someone should listen to them. Maybe if someone had listened to them before this, insult and shame would not have been necessary.

And a final note– Shamel and Rhamel Bratton, whatever ya’ll did to get suspended, please don’t do it again. UVA lacrosse is no joke.
Juanita Giles lives on a farm in Charlotte County with her husband, son and many dogs.