We Are All Blazer Fans Now

Steve Novick

This is a little belated, but did anyone see the Nate McMillan / Maurice Lucas interview in the Sunday October 30 O! section? I know it’s hard to root for the Blazers, but as progressives, we now have no choice. We’ve got to get to every game we can, to support the new coach and his assistant, the stalwart power forward of the ’77 champs. Because, amazingly, they are us.

It’s a long interview, but at some point they started talking about New Orleans, and Lucas said:

“We’ve got some serious problems in this country that a lot of people are trying to avoid facing … We could provide for ourselves if in fact that’s what we wanted to do. But if it’s a total class separation that we’re trying to achieve, well, it’s getting damn close.”

McMillan said:

“The New Orleans situation has shown that this government has turned their back on the poor ... now Bush is accepting blame … And then the governor down there is doing the same thing. OK, you accept the blame for these two, three hundred people that have died? You gonna sweep that under the rug? I think it’s total B.S. to now say ‘Yes, I accept.’ Like, all of a sudden they’ve accepted blame and we can move on. You should be put in prison for what they’ve just done.”

There was much more, in the same vein. (Actually, even before the New Orleans part, Lucas said he moved from Dunthorpe to Tigard to make sure his kids lived in a more multicultural environment.) I was stunned. If you’re not a sports fan, you might not realize how unusual this is, how right-wing most athletes are. Mostly, they’re rich guys who want to avoid taxes ... and there doesn’t seem to be too much variation by ethnicity, either. I first learned this, quite traumatically, when I was 13, in 1976, when the sainted Muhammed Ali endorsed Gerald Ford.

Another dramatic example was in 1984, when Cedric ‘Cornbread’ Maxwell of the Celtics, a North Carolinian, endorsed Jesse Helms for re-election. Some reporter said, Cornbread, do you realize you might be the only black man in North Carolina voting for Helms? Maxwell replied, “Most of the brothers don’t make the kind of scratch I do.” A Slate article awhile back elaborated on this theme.

Yes, there are exceptions – Bill Walton was a lefty, too, and Bill “Spaceman” Lee, the Red Sox / Expos pitcher of the ‘70’s and early ‘80’s (who campaigned for ERA after first protesting that he couldn’t support any ERA unless it was under 3.50), and Nick van Exel was against the Iraq war – but the exceptions are rare. So they should be treasured. And these guys are the real thing. “Total class separation”! “Should be put in prison”! Them is fightin’ words. Hallelujah. Go, Blazers.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)

    A few more examples of athletes on the left:

    Blue Jays' Delgado Protests War in Iraq

  • Gil Johnson (unverified)

    Well, there's also Pat Tillman, the NFL start who was killed in Afghanistan after volunteering for the army. The Bush administration tried to paint him as a big pro-war hero, but I read a piece in the Nation recently in which he came out against the war in Iraq in a letter to his family.

    Carlos Delgado anti-war. That's cool. Another reason to root for the Marlins. There are probably some lefties on that team, as their best player, Miguel Cabrera, comes from Venezuela. And Ozzie Guillen, the manager of the White Sox, gladly was received by Hugo Chavez.

    As Steve says, though, most athletes are selfishly right wing. Curt Schilling, one of the most articulate guys in baseball, endorsed Bush in 04. Greg Anthony, an extremely smart player and erudite analyst for ESPN, is a conservative Republican. When Charles Barkely was making noises about running for governor of Alabama, he didn't sound a lot different from a lot of southern cracker reactionaries.

    Wonder where 'Sheed is on the political spectrum? He might be one of us, though he also owns three Hummers.

  • Pedro (unverified)

    Great post Steve. Thank you.

    I suspect that there are many atheletes who have similar posistions but are afraid to voice them openly. The tragedy of the hurricanes and the incompetent reaction by FEMA has many people speaking up who might otherwise remain silent. Hats off to Luke and Nate.


  • Matt (unverified)

    I think that Sheed may be difficult to indentify politically, however, let's not forget his comment at the White House featured on this blog. When asked what he had to say to the president, Sheed responded, "I ain't got s@#! to say to him...I don't like him, didn't vote for him" or something to that effect. Chauncy Billups backed him up saying, "its true, Sheed don't talk to people who he doesn't like."

  • Target (unverified)

    Justwhen I started feeling better about Mo leaving! Goodbye Jailblazers, Hello Snailblazers cause their coach is slow in the head.

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    remember the 60s & 70s when athletes not only had political opinions but were willing to put them to the fore? remember the mexico city olympics and the black panther salute? now it's all about the bling and the money (may alex rodriquez go to the hall of fame without a single championship). i have no real problem with jocks making tons of money (they're still pikers next to your average CEO) but it is great to hear a few of them speak up like this. it can only do us all good. and it certainly indicates the blazers are in good hands. this may be a tough year, but with nate & luke in charge, i think at least we will be able to be proud of the team.

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    And don't forget Etan Thomas, who gave an amazing anti-war speech in DC recently. He's even published a book of poetry, More Than An Athlete (click). I would even consider going back to see a game if the Blazers could recruit him!

  • activist kaza (unverified)

    Nice post, Steve, but how could leave out fellower NBAer, latest MVP and your own namesake Steve (Nash)?

  • howard (unverified)

    "Actually, even before the New Orleans part, Lucas said he moved from Dunthorpe to Tigard to make sure his kids lived in a more multicultural environment."

    Ah Dunthorpe, home of Oregon's most exclusive Riverdale School District with its highly effective foundation that only raises money for a 500 student public school district. So much for public schools as Portland's "great equalizer".

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