Fair Play: A citizenship is worth more than a dunk

(This is my Fair Play column for Sun.Star Cebu's Feb. 10 edition)
SO MY column supporting the move against the naturalization of NBA star JaValee McGee touched a raw nerve. Ignorant, uninformed and inconsistent were just the few words thrown my way.

Let me simplify it for those who equate the refusal to support the naturalization of McGee to refusal to support Gilas Pilipinas—if Gilas wants to naturalize McGee, let him go through the process, not expedite it, because that sends the wrong message.

People think my opposition to “instant naturalized athletes” started with basketball, but that’s not it. It started with the Olympics and a chance remark. In fact, it was because of the Olympics that I first learned all about this naturalization process. I have long forgotten the event or the country that won it, by I could not forget the

In the 1992 Olympics, one rich country from the Middle East won its first medal, thanks to a naturalized athlete. It was in athletics and one of the commentator said that the practice of naturalizing athletes by rich countries was becoming a problem.

Countries who couldn’t win with their own citizens will just look for athletes who’d swap nationalities for money, and win with them. He even called the practice as a threat to the Olympic spirit.

It’s the same in the Asian Games, when in 2002 other countries started fielding naturalized athletes who used to play table tennis for China.

Supporters of the Gilas move say that the other countries are doing it, and so we should too. Even the US did it, so we should too.

The US also legalized marijuana, I think we should, too. I think we should also adopt the censorship standards, when it comes to films and TV, of France and Australia because they are doing it.

Some point out the case of Hakeem Olajuwon, the naturalized American from Nigeria who played for the Dream Team to support Gilas move to have McGee naturalized.

Well, if McGee spent his college years in the Philippines and spent his whole professional career here, and can speak any of the dialects then I’d be the first to propose that we naturalize him. But is McGee as Filipino as Olajuwon was American?

The way fans are acting or defending the move, it seems, we should be lucky if ever guys like McGee honor us by agreeing to be Filipinos and that’s wrong.

That should not be the case! It should be the other way around. It should not be about us wanting them to be Filipinos, it should be about them wanting to be Filipinos, for all the right reasons, not because they want to join the Fiba World Cup because they are not good enough to make it the US team.

A Filipino citizenship isn’t a commodity to be given away by one who has the money and the political will power to give it. And of all the bills the Congress has to expedite, must it be the naturalization process?

Some say those who don’t support the move don’t support Gilas. Why? Is blind devotion required to be a supporter of the national team? Is criticism of the national team a case of crab mentality?

Others oppose the move for other reasons. I oppose it for the same reason that Atty. Baldomero Estenzo, who is leading the petition against it, has. A Filipino citizenship should be worth more than a slam dunk.

To borrow the words of my friend, a veteran sports observer and architect, “Just because it is technically possible to construct a third bridge from one gridlock area to another, doesn’t mean it should be built...just because we can build mile-high skyscrapers in an earthquake zone doesn’t justify its construction....Just because private vehicles are convenient doesn’t mean that we should design and build our transport and road system around cars....All these points to one thing....We should not have naturalized, NBA-players playing for our national team....Does anybody here knows what barangay Dennis Still, Jeff Moore and Chip Engelland live in?


Craig Burrows said…
Well said, now if only I could learn a sport to earn naturalization. The Filipino is worth more than a slam dunk.
Couldn't agree more Mike.

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