by | Nov 21, 2008 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

BARCELONA, Spain — I had promised myself I would go the whole weekend without speaking, writing, or even thinking the words “Dream Team.”

But this is too good to resist.

It now seems that our rich and talented NBA heroes — whom we sent here to stomp on those commie heathens and bring home the old basketball glory — may not step up for their Olympic gold medal after all.

In fact, Michael Jordan, the biggest star on the team, said, “They can mail me the medal. I’m not getting up on that victory stand.”

Has politics re-entered the Olympic arena? Is this a solidarity thing, like in 1968, when John Carlos and Tommie Smith raised their fists to tell the world about black power? Not exactly. Remember that commercial by Spike Lee? “It’s the shoes, Mars, it’s the shoes.” So it is. The shoes. Michael and some of his teammates, who get paid millions of dollars to endorse Nike products, refuse to get on the victory stand because they are required to wear the official U.S. team awards outfit — which is made by Reebok.

Don’t you just love sports?

“I don’t believe in endorsing my competitors,” Jordan says. “That’s like saying I have to pick someone over my own father.”

Hmm. I guess I understand that logic.

Nike does pay his allowance. Others can see beyond the logo

Anyhow, to its credit, the U.S. Olympic Committee has not backed down, even if Michael can buy and sell them twice. “Anyone not wearing that uniform won’t get on the medal stand,” a spokesman said.

You can just see this picture, right? They call the Dream Team for its gold medals, and a voice comes over the loudspeaker: “Accepting the award for Michael Jordan . . . “

Now. I hear your questions. 1) Don’t other U.S. Olympians have private endorsement deals? Yes. And not one has objected to the Reebok outfits. 2) Why is Reebok on those uniforms in the first place? Because our Olympians get no money from the government. Not a dime. All our swimmers, divers, archers, cyclists — get funded by private business, through the USOC.

Reebok is one of the companies that kicks in several million toward that cause, in exchange for, among other things, their logos on the award outfits.

That logo is awfully small, about the size of two cigarettes. But for athletes like Jordan, it’s not the size, it’s the principle — not to mention his $25-million Nike contract.

If it ain’t Nike, you don’t get Mikey.

“I don’t care how I get my medal, as long as I get it,” he says.

What a statement. Did you happen to watch Gail Devers, the 100 meter winner, get her gold medal Saturday night? She overcame a terrible disease to make this Olympics. Doctors thought she’d never run again. Now here she was, singing the “The Star Spangled Banner” in front of the whole world.

You think she’d feel the same if they just mailed it to her?

Remember the old days, when you weren’t supposed to notice what kind of sneakers or sunglasses the Olympians were wearing? Why, in ancient Greece, athletes used to run naked. Who knew Right Guard was missing a golden endorsement opportunity?

“If they can’t bend the rule,” Jordan says, “I’ll make my own suggestions.”

No, Michael. Allow me. Jordan can sing a new song

My first suggestion is you go home. But that probably won’t work. So how about this? You wear the suit, but put a piece of tape over the word
“Reebok.” (While you’re at it, stick one over Charles Barkley’s mouth.) Don’t have any tape? OK. When you get on the medal stand, do a handstand and wiggle your Nike shoes. That will hide the Reebok logo, get Nike attention, and keep us from having to look at that sad goatee you’re trying to grow.

Not good enough? Wait. How about we change the national anthem? We can rewrite the words just for you:

Oh say, can you see

All the Nike on me,

Won’t you close-up right now,

While I tell you, “Just do it.”

Or “God Bless America”:

God bless my com-pa-ny

Firm that I love

Buy Air Jordans, you’ll adore ’ems,

Please ignore this Reebok on my chest . . .

Of course, if Nike were smart, they’d tell Michael to wear the uniform and stop embarrassing them. They may do that. Still, we ought to learn something from this. Jordan and the others keep saying they’re not here for business, they’re here for the country. But how much can it mean if you don’t want to be there when they play the anthem?

“It’s a matter of loyalty,” Jordan says.

Great. When Croatia, Brazil and Angola look back on the thrashing they took from the Dream Team, at least they’ll know it was for a worthy cause.


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Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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