Content warning: sexual violence
The NBA is deep into the playoffs, which means the majority of teams have already begun their offseasons. Predictably, it’s a busy time of the year: From trading players, to firing coaches, to hiring new ones, the entire league seems to be in flux. The Dallas Mavericks and the Portland Trail Blazers, for instance, hired new coaches. Their picks are Jason Kidd and Chauncey Billups, respectively. Both are former All-Stars, former assistant coaches and also alleged abusers.
Kidd pleaded guilty to domestic abuse charges against his wife in 2001. He was fined $200, ordered to complete anger management training and continued his NBA career.
Billups was involved in a 1997 sexual assault case, where he and a number of his Boston Celtics teammates allegedly raped a woman. Billups was never tried in court as the case reached a settlement afterwards.
As a female fan of the NBA, the handling of these situations and the fact they exist at all, is extremely disappointing. By giving alleged abusers a platform, the NBA risks alienating its female fans by showing a lack of empathy toward those who have experienced similar incidents. The league has already shown limited support toward women. Outwardly supporting the WNBA isn’t enough, especially when it isn’t backed up behind the scenes.
For example, Becky Hammon, a Spurs assistant coach, was considered for some of these positions. It’s a slap in the face to female fans to dangle the possibility of being represented in the highest office of the NBA only to turn around and hire an alleged abuser.
The NBA is not the only organization to be blamed for the handling of this situation. ESPN allowed Kendrick Perkins, former NBA player and current ESPN correspondent, to publicly endorse the hires. He stated on First Take that articles written about the situation were out of pocket, continually citing that the coaches have “learned from their mistakes.” Perkins is blatantly misinformed: He claimed that Billups had been “cleared,” which is untrue because his case never went to trial, and pointed out that both men had already had other coaching jobs in the past.
Perkins has faced seemingly no repercussions from ESPN for his comments.
These hires have caused turmoil within the respective organizations and fanbases, specifically the Trail Blazers’.
On June 26, female staffers within the Trail Blazers organization collectively published a piece for Blazer’s Edge, a basketball blog. Some are unsure if they can continue supporting the organization. Some are sexual assault victims themselves and will have to be reminded of their experiences every time Billups is mentioned. All show discomfort with the situation.
On June 29, Billups and Neil Olshey, the Trail Blazers general manager, sat down with the media to answer questions and the NBA community at large deemed it a disaster. Olshey stated that the organization stood by Billups and his perceived innocence and that it conducted its own investigation. When prompted with follow-up questions about the investigation and Billup’s takeaways from the incident, Olshey deflected and a moderator declined the question.
The Mavericks organization has made some questionable decisions as well by hiring Kidd, a domestic abuser. Kidd’s hiring added to its pedigree of scandal: The organization has already dealt with a widespread sexual harassment issue, with most of the abusers coming from men in high positions of power.
The NBA needs to be better about regulating its organizations and its hires and there needs to be prolonged consequences for those who commit such crimes. Hopefully, the NBA can eventually support women in all aspects of the organizations, whether it be behind the scenes or not.