FanDuel - WFBC

August 18, 2008

Olympic Traitor?: Chris Kaman of the Clippers, a US citizen, obtained German citizenship and plays basketball for the German Olympic team in these Olympics. He is three generations removed from his great-grandparents who came here from the motherland. There's some dispute about whether a US citizen playing for another national team is kosher. Opinions?

posted by boredom_08 to basketball at 01:00 PM - 29 comments

Kaman couldn't crack the USA roster in his wildest dreams, so who really cares if he stretches things a bit to participate in the Olympics? And if he turns into the reason USA loses out on a gold medal, this country should stop organized basketball immediately!

posted by dyams at 01:18 PM on August 18

Never mind. A 49 point USA victory over Germany seems to have made this a non-issue. Kaman chipped in to the losing end of the blowout with 6 points.

posted by dyams at 01:21 PM on August 18

Last night NBC profiled a softball player who "defected" to Russia to play in these Olympics, too. She's 31 and didn't make the US team. Other athletes have done it as well.

On the one hand, dyams is right--if he's not good enough to play for Team USA, the US shouldn't care if he plays elsewhere. From a patriotic angle, though, it's quite a contrast from, say, Lopez Lomong or Bernard Legat, who are proudly competing as US citizens after coming to America to pursue their dreams.

posted by werty at 01:47 PM on August 18

Traitor?

Hardly.

Why is it only when an American citizen decides to play for another country (of which he is also a citizen) that the word traitor is used. I never hear questions about treason when athletes from other countries gain their American citizenship and compete for the U.S.A. This seems just a tad hypocritical.

posted by tommytrump at 01:49 PM on August 18

I agree TT. Comparatively, one of the US long distance runners (1500 and 5000) is from Kenya, and I didn't hear any mention of "traitor" anything. This article is giving Kaman way more credit than he deserves.

posted by BoKnows at 01:55 PM on August 18

I think the US women's ping-pong player is from China. Goose, gander, blah blah.

And World Cup soccer's already seen this. In fact, US men's team has a French defender, or did. And you'll find a Brazilian playing for Japan, etc., etc.

Horse, barn, blah blah.

posted by worldcup2002 at 02:18 PM on August 18

dyams:

Kaman couldn't crack the USA roster in his wildest dreams, so who really cares if he stretches things a bit to participate in the Olympics?

Some German dude who didn't make the team, perhaps. I don't see where anyone else has a legitimate beef, though.

tommytrump:

Why is it only when an American citizen decides to play for another country (of which he is also a citizen) that the word traitor is used.

You have Ann Coulter to thank for the redefinition of "traitor" as "someone who does something I do not like". This one's all hers.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 02:35 PM on August 18

Country shopping isn't that unusual. There's lots of interesting moves among World Cup soccer players, for instance.

The justification can sometimes be a bit comical, but I wouldn't consider the athlete a traitor. Particularly if he or she wasn't going to qualify for the original nation's team.

posted by rcade at 02:47 PM on August 18

I don't know. It seems to defeat the whole purpose of the Olympics when you have a bunch of people competing for countries where they don't live, aren't from, don't even know the language etc. It is the same as the whole story about Michael Phelps out-touching the guy from Serbia, Cavic, except really Cavic is from the O.C. It is just skirting the rules. Kaman had no interest in being a German citizen, he couldn't have been a German citizen that fast, except it was fast-tracked because he could help out on the Olympic team. It just is so mercenary.

posted by bperk at 02:53 PM on August 18

"I think the US women's ping-pong player is from China."

Not just A player. The four members of the U.S. women's ping pong team are Wang Chen (born in Beijing and who "who was a mainstay of the Chinese team in the 1990s"), Crystal Xi Huang (born in Changsha, Hunan, China), Gao Jun (born in Dalian, China), and Jackie Lee (who was, shockingly, born in the U.S.).

According to Gao Jun's bio at www.nbcolympics.com, "The International Table Tennis Federation recently approved a rule stating that anyone over the age of 21 may not emigrate to another country to further their [sic] playing career. Even those under the age of 21, while allowed to switch country allegiances, would have to wait certain amounts of time before they could actually compete for that nation. That means after the Beijing Games, anyone hoping to emulate the careers of Gao and fellow-U.S. Olympian Wang Chen would not be able to do so. [P] Needless to say it's been met with criticism on both sides of the argument. As Gao told the Associated Press, 'If you cut out all (foreign players) and tell the Americans to play by themselves, you'll see what's going to happen to the level of talent. The situation will be that there won't be any team that can compete against China.'"

In other words, all you Americans can't hold my Chinese jock strap! Of course, who really cares about ping pong besides Forrest Gump?!

posted by zddoodah at 03:52 PM on August 18

What I found interesting about the article was the big issue his father took with it. Personally, I think that if Kaman had the opportunity to play elsewhere as well as the legal ability, why not. His father (whose grandparents WERE the closest German relatives) "sometimes focused on the negative" and Kaman had to "get in his face a little bit". Hm.

Again, my opinions don't concur with the title, I was intending to spark a bit of conversation, which obviously worked.

posted by boredom_08 at 03:52 PM on August 18

Comparatively, one of the US long distance runners (1500 and 5000) is from Kenya, and I didn't hear any mention of "traitor" anything.

No Americans are calling Bernard Lagat names, but the Kenyans will do everything they can to beat him. He is viewed as someone who abandoned his country in Kenya, and they may strip him of the 1500m silver medal he won when competing for Kenya in the 2004 Olympics! No one is saying "traitor," but they're certainly not cheering him on anymore.

posted by dusted at 04:12 PM on August 18

I agree dusted, my point was if the USA is benefiting from a new citizen, then mums the word. But if it's the other way around, we get some article describing his family tree and/or an FPP that says:

There's some dispute about whether a US citizen playing for another national team is kosher.

Why would it be okay for Lagat, but not Kaman? Or, why is the Lagat controversy ignored, but ESPN does an article about a NBA player who wouldn't have made the US team anyway? Slow news day, maybe?

posted by BoKnows at 04:35 PM on August 18

I'm going to say yes to your question BoKnows. Lagat has moved to the U.S. permanently. He doesn't have dual citizenship or anything. In addition, he has spent years in the U.S., including going to college. Kaman's only contact with Germany is the Olympics. It's the difference between adopting a country as your own and renting a country for purposes of a gold medal.

posted by bperk at 04:44 PM on August 18

"Traitor".

What a ridiculous suggestion.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 04:57 PM on August 18

I never hear questions about treason when athletes from other countries gain their American citizenship and compete for the U.S.A.

Yeah, I don't remember much of a stink when Preki gained citizenship in the States to compete in the Gold Cup.

You have Ann Coulter to thank for the redefinition of "traitor" as "someone who does something I do not like". This one's all hers.

I don't disagree with this statement, but you'll catch me with a whole in the back of my head and gunpowder in my cortex before you'll catch me thanking Ann Coulter for anything.

posted by Ufez Jones at 05:23 PM on August 18

er, "hole", not "whole". I guess the "edit" function hasn't quite come back yet, eh?

posted by Ufez Jones at 05:24 PM on August 18

The weirdest examples of 'country shopping' in this Olympics have been at beach volleyball. The President of Georgia (yes, the one who's been in the news lately) decided that he liked the look of beach volleyball. As a result, he recruited two Brazilian men and two Brazilian women to represent his nation. I believe the team members may have even visited Georgia at one time.

posted by owlhouse at 05:52 PM on August 18

It's the difference between adopting a country as your own and renting a country for purposes of a gold medal.

Maybe, but if Kaman is "renting" Germany for the purpose of a Gold medal, then he didn't think it out very well.

posted by BoKnows at 07:15 PM on August 18

I think it's a lot weirder (word?) to see J.R. Holden playing for Russia (for obvious reasons). Hard to believe there are many black russians outside of bars...

posted by docshredder at 08:19 PM on August 18

I believe there's a US women's basketball player who now plays Russia in the Olympics under such a move (which was discussed a while back on SpoFi, though I can't find search so I can't find the link).

I have no problem with someone born in one country playing for another, but it does seem counter to the spirit of the games to allow these fast-track citizenships.

Shouldn't there be a minimum time of citizenship and residence requirement?

posted by kokaku at 08:36 PM on August 18

I don't know. It seems to defeat the whole purpose of the Olympics when you have a bunch of people competing for countries where they don't live, aren't from, don't even know the language etc.

No argument, but the whole purpose of the Olympics was defeated long ago, sorry to say.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 10:12 PM on August 18

I believe there's a US women's basketball player who now plays Russia in the Olympics under such a move

Becky Hammon.

posted by Ying Yang Mafia at 11:02 PM on August 18

You're Right lil_brown_bat. The original purpose of the Olympics was individual competition between amateur athletes. It was inevitable that the number of medals won by a country would be promoted by the media and national chauvinists as an unofficial symbol of national superiority. This was exacerbated during the cold war by the communist countries practice of selecting and training potential Olympians on a full time basis while giving them token jobs to maintain the appearence of amateurism. The IOC then decided "If you can't lick 'em, join 'em" so today we have professional athletes trading countries just for a chance to "be there". Might as well get used to it.

posted by wildcat55 at 01:42 PM on August 19

It seems to defeat the whole purpose of the Olympics

Defeating the whole purpose of the Olympics... like, say, professional athletes competing? Nationalistic dick size wars about medal counts replacing unity and togetherness? Those sorts of things?

posted by rodgerd at 06:40 PM on August 19

Question: Why do some athletes have to be amateurs while others can play in professional leagues and still compete?

posted by Ying Yang Mafia at 07:42 AM on August 20

The Olympics doesn't require any athletes to be amateurs anymore. They got rid of that artifice about 10 years ago.

posted by bperk at 12:21 PM on August 20

Maybe Kaman is just a guy who wants to play ball in the Olympics.

posted by naylor284 at 05:44 PM on August 21

I have no problem with Kaman playing somewhere else. Cut him a break he plays for the Clippers. Might as well try for some kind of championship in his career. Linford Christie (England, gold medalist 100 meters, 1992) and Donovan Bailey (Canada, gold medalist 100 meters, 1996) were both Jamaican citizens.

posted by Newbie Walker at 02:02 AM on August 22

You're not logged in. Please log in or register.