ESPN has named San Antonio Spurs assistant coach Becky Hammon as its 2014 “woman of the year.”
With its praise, ESPN completely ignored Hammon’s controversial decision to apply for Russian citizenship and play for the 2008 Russian women’s basketball team in the Olympics.
In its 2014 women in sports review, espnW called Hammon “a beloved underdog on the court and now the first full-time, salaried, female coach in NBA history” and noted that her appointment to the San Antonio Spurs coaching staff was “groundbreaking.”
In its praise, the espnW piece went on to glorify Hammon’s decision to “stop listening” to critics. “She listened to the voice that told her yes–her own,” explained the offshoot of ESPN’s main site.
The point about ignoring criticism is particularly trenchant. In 2008 Hammon withstood some very virulent critics when she decided to apply for citizenship in Vladimir Putin’s Russia so that she could qualify to play on Russia’s women’s Olympic basketball team.
Hammon’s decision was so controversial that even the coach of the US women’s Olympic basketball team slammed the player as un-American for having taken Russian citizenship just to play in the Olympics.
In an interview in August of 2008, U.S. national coach Anne Donovan was asked about Hammon and she was quite blunt in her criticism. “If you play in this country, live in this country, and you grow up in the heartland and you put on a Russian uniform, you are not a patriotic person in my mind,” she said.
Hammon was also accused of being a money-grubber since becoming a Russian citizen would have tripled her payments for playing on the Russian team.
Others called hypocrisy on Hammon when, despite going to Russia, donning a Russian uniform, and taking Russian citizenship, she made a show of reverence for the U.S. national anthem when the song was played before an exhibition game between Russia and the US.
For her part, Hammon always explained it all away as just a way she could compete on an Olympic scale. She claimed it was just a sports decision and since she was always a long shot to make the US team, she jumped to Russia for the opportunity.
“I could either have gone home and sat on the couch and watched the Olympics on TV or come here and taken part,” she then said.
Ultimately, Hammon scored a team-high of 22 points as Russia achieved a 94-81 victory over China at Wukesong Arena giving the team a bronze medal (The U.S. won the gold and the Australians the silver that year.).
Despite all the controversy over Hammon’s actions, ESPN completely ignored her history in its fawning assessment of her career as it named her one of the 2014 women of the year.
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