BOSTON – No one has ever accused Detroit Pistons president of basketball operations/head coach Stan Van Gundy of holding back when it came to basketball or broader-related issues to the game.
So it’s not all that surprising that Van Gundy has some very pointed thoughts on the recently announced travel ban that could potentially impact some NBA players.
“We’re getting into the days where, now we’re judging people by their religion. We’re trying to keep Muslims out,” Van Gundy said.
The executive order signed by President Donald Trump bars all people from seven Muslim-majority countries – Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen – from entering the United States for 90 days based upon a 2016 law under then-president Barack Obama, in which those seven countries were seen as “countries of concern.”
In addition, the ban also applies to refugees fleeing war-torn Syria in addition to banning all refugees from entering the country for four months.
A Federal court judge in New York (U.S. Judge Ann M. Donnelly) blocked part of the executive order with a ruling that individuals from the seven Muslim-majority countries who had arrived in airports in the United States after the order could not be removed.
The travel ban is an NBA issue because of its potential impact on some players such as Milwaukee’s Thon Maker and Los Angeles Lakers forward Luol Deng who are both from the Sudan but have Australian and British Passports, respectively.
"We have reached out to the State Department and are in the process of gathering information to understand how this executive order would apply to players in our league who are from one of the impacted countries," NBA spokesman Mike Bass said in a statement. "The NBA is a global league, and we are proud to attract the very best players from around the world."
Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr was born in Lebanon, and his father was assassinated in an act of terrorism in Beirut in 1984.
"I would just say that as someone whose family member was a victim of terrorism, having lost my father," Kerr told reporters, "if we're trying to combat terrorism by banishing people from coming to this country, by really going against the principles that this country is about and creating fear, it's the wrong way to go about it.
Kerr added, "If anything, we could be breeding anger and terror, so I'm completely against what's happening. I think it's shocking and a horrible idea, and I really feel for all the people who are affected. Families that are being torn apart, and I worry in the big picture what this means to the security of the world. It's going about it completely opposite. You want to solve terror, you want to solve crime, this is not the way to do it."
Since the executive order was announced on Friday at 4:42 p.m., there have been several protests at airports across the country, including here in Boston.
Van Gundy fears the country is reverting to a period of time when the rights of people were severely limited.
“It’s just playing to people’s fears and prejudices and everything else,” Van Gundy said. “We’re getting back to the days of putting Japanese in relocation camps and Hitler registering the Jews. That’s where we’re headed. It’s just fear-mongering and playing to a certain base of people that have some built-in prejudices that aren’t fair.”
Van Gundy is just the latest NBA executive to weigh in on the travel ban.
Raptors president Masai Ujiri is from Nigeria and works with the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders program as well as his own Giants of Africa foundation.
“I always say when I speak with Giants of Africa and speak to youth, I don’t know how many older people we can change their ways of thinking, but the youth … it’s very, very important that we give them opportunity,” he told reporters. “And this, I’m speaking about, is how are we going to give them opportunity? How do I go and we continue to talk and talk and talk and help them grow and then all of a sudden we are giving them false hope because of bans like this?”
The focus of the executive order is to address the threat of terrorism, something that was made quite clear in the President’s executive order.
“Deteriorating conditions in certain countries due to war, strife, disaster, and civil unrest increase the likelihood that terrorists will use any means possible to enter the United States,” reads the Executive Order. “The United States must be vigilant during the visa-issuance process to ensure that those approved for admission do not intend to harm Americans and that they have no ties to terrorism.”
The order later reads, “In order to protect Americans, the United States must ensure that those admitted to this country do not bear hostile attitudes toward it and its founding principles. The United States cannot, and should not, admit those who do not support the Constitution, or those who would place violent ideologies over American law. In addition, the United States should not admit those who engage in acts of bigotry or hatred (including "honor" killings, other forms of violence against women, or the persecution of those who practice religions different from their own) or those who would oppress Americans of any race, gender, or sexual orientation.”