A layup of a decision
On basketball, wars of aggression, and the right decision on the road to the Olympics
The International Basketball Federation has "decided to not allow the registration of the Russian men's national team in the FIBA Olympic Pre-Qualifying Tournaments 2023", which is how teams get into the Olympics. It's a response to the way that Russia has launched a bloody and wasteful war of aggression against Ukraine.
■ There are those who want to keep sports entirely separate from other affairs. That would be nice, if achievable. But it's an impossibility: Russia has used athletes as propagandists, and one doesn't have to dig deep to find historical cases where sports were used to legitimize the behavior of uncivilized regimes.
■ Sports depend upon people voluntarily observing rules of behavior; at the macro level, you can't defeat your competitors by kneecapping them or poisoning their food. At the micro level, we count upon the regulation of fair play, even when the fouls may be unintentional.
■ It isn't unreasonable to bar the participation of athletes from a country that openly defies the rules of a civilized world order. It's not like imposing a grain embargo (as Russia itself has committed against Ukraine): Sports aren't necessary for life. Sports are trappings of cultures that can observe higher levels of behavior.
■ Just as the United Nations undermines its own legitimacy by leaving Russia in charge of the UN Security Council for the month of April, so too do any international institutions that put the interests of playing nicely (literally) with Russian teams over insisting that bad actions have consequences. In this choice, at least, the world of basketball can hold its head high.
Hoops aren’t life