Outspoken Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is the latest to speak out on what he feels is a hypocritical Olympic system.
“It’s not that I don’t like the idea of them representing their countries,” Cuban said by e-mail. “If the Olympics were truly a nationalistic endeavor built on sport and part of the public domain, I would be willing to take risk and support their playing. What I don’t like is that we lie to ourselves and pretend that the Olympians represent our country.
“They don’t. They have taken relatively low paying jobs working for the Olympics, who in turn sell the broadcast and marketing rights for billions of dollars in profits, all the while creating enormous risk for those of us who pay them for their day jobs that support their families. It’s amazing how players who are free agents won’t participate, but those with guaranteed contracts will.
“I hate the fact that we lie to ourselves and pretend this is about representing country,” Cuban said. “It’s not. It’s about money.”
Cuban is entitled to his opinion. He assumes considerable risk when his players compete internationally. Dirk Nowitzki’s contract is insured but a career-ending injury would be a huge loss to the franchise. Nowitzki’s salary (at least a large portion) would be covered but the insurance company can’t provide a replacement for Dirk.
But I haven’t seen anything to indicate that free agents are less likely to play in the Olympics than their counterparts with guaranteed contracts.
Cuban also commented on the Cleveland Cavaliers decision to deny Zydrunas Ilgauskas permission to play for his native Lithuanian team.
“I like that they did (it), but I would not because although we disagree on the subject, I know this is important to Dirk,” Cuban said. “If Dirk had an ongoing injury, my position may change.”
The Cavs were able to deny permission because IlGauskas’ contract is not fully insured.
”Zydrunas is an important member of our team and has generally been a higher risk player due to his injury history,” Cavs General Manager Danny Ferry said. ”We declined consent for Zydrunas to play in the Olympics when he approached us several weeks ago, and in light of the inability to insure Zydrunas adequately, we continue to deny consent and will not permit Zydrunas to play in the 2008 Olympics.”
”This is the last time I’ll have a chance to play for my country,” Ilgauskas said at the end of the season. ”It’s something I wanted to do.”
The NBA is a business like any other. The goal is to make money. But the Cleveland Cavaliers are setting a terrible precedent by refusing to allow Illgauskas the opportunity to represent his country in the Olympic games.
There are certain life experiences that cannot be measured monetarily. Marriage is one. The birth of a child is another. Playing in the Olympics has to be pretty high on the list too. Higher than anything that can be accomplished in the NBA.