Thursday, June 05, 2008

Hoops: Bol Kong, revisited

The New York Times has picked up the Bol Kong story, which is of national concern but has never drawn much interest anywhere east of his hometown, Vancouver.

There's an entire level of geopolitics and international diplomacy that, frankly, is way beyond the ken of a blog about sports. The best stab here is that it is completely unjust that Kong, a gifted basketball guard whom a big-time hoops school, Gonzaga, is apparently very sweet on, can't get a student visa to play U.S. college basketball. The U.S. won't let him in since he's a citizen of Sudan, a state which is considered to sponsor terrorism according to laws passed in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Talk about the law of unintended consequences. Kong and his family left Sudan due to the country's civil war and, according to the timeline, were in Canada by the time the law that is keeping him from being allowed into the States was passed. He poses no threat to anyone, except the guy who's stuck with guarding him (he lit it up against Division 1 teams while playing for Douglas College last season).

The question is where is Canada's government in this? Prime Minister Stephen Harper never misses a chance to attach himself to hockey. There might not be a lot of political capital in helping Kong, but it's the right thing (presuming something can be done to change the Americans' minds).

The 6-foot-7 Kong would be attending a top basketball school, study at a highly-ranked private university and team up with another Sudan-born Canadian, shooting guard Mangisto (Manny) Arop, who's committed to 'Zaga for the 2009-10 season. Why not pull out all the stops to help him realize his dream?

Player Caught in a Web Not of His Spinning (Aaron Kaplowitz, The New York Times; via The Postmen)


Dennis Prouse said...

Err, what is the problem with having him attend a CIS school? Last I heard, CIS had men's basketball, and it is a considerable step up from community college.

Mikey said...

Dennis, I think you are underestimating the quality of a mid-major school with heaps of success like Gonzaga, especially compared relatively to the level of play in the CIS.

On all fronts Gonzaga is a great school: good coaching, solid Jesuit academics, a strong non-conference schedule, a West Coast Conference that produced three NCAA teams this year, and a programme that has produced NBA talent like John Stockton, Adam Morrison, and Rony Turiaf that is playing in the NBA finals tonight.

Playing for Gonzaga is a huge step up than any Canadian school, and that includes Carleton. The development of his talent in the States would far exceed anything he could achieve in Canada...and that is no slight on CIS ball. It's just reality.

Neate, I'm wondering why Luol Deng can come from Sudan (via London) to Duke no problem prior to this law, but this kid can't be offered an exemption when he legally came as a refugee to Canada?

Big V said...

WOuld it make a difference if he had citizenship in Canada?

sager said...

1) I think Mikey answered that -- the CIS does not have a track record of developing NBA prospects.

2) Mikey, my smartassed answer is, "Because Coach K's a Republican!" Who knows, maybe Duke had some heavy-hitters that helped out in Deng's situation.

3) If he was a Canadian citizen, Deng would be in the NCAA already, no problem.

Krister said...

'Bush Lite', aka Harper, will do nothing that goes against the 'war on terror' of his puppet master.

sager said...

Man, I was going to add a "We Support Your War of Terror" label, but that is so 2006.

Dennis Prouse said...

I share the view that barring him from the U.S. makes very little sense. The law of unintended consequences has kicked in on many post 9/11 related policy decisions, this being just one. I am a P.J. O'Rourke practitioner in that I am a bit of a civil libertarian, hence my intense dislike for the monumental insanity of having my can of shaving foam seized at the airport in the name of the "war on terror". At the same time, like P.J., I have no problem using military might to go blast the snot out of Islamo-fascists in their home rink.

Here's something to ponder, though -- why is it that we as Canadians feel as if we have the right to tell the Americans who they should or shouldn't admit to their country? We don't like it much when foreign countries try to mess with our domestic affairs (Vive le Quebec libre, anyone?), yet the entire world feels perfectly entitled to critique America on theirs. I think it is a stupid blanket policy, just as I think their Cuban embargo is badly outdated and counter-productive, but at the end of the day it is their country. (I don't think that we Canadians really "get" how significantly September 11 rattled and changed the American psyche, but that's a whole other debate.)

sager said...

I don't believe we have any right to tell the U.S. whom it should be letting into their country.

We have an obligation, though, to try and work through proper diplomatic channels. (Man, I feel like a pundit!)

The hole in this story is what Canadian authorities have tried to do for Bol Kong.

The best thing for Bol Kong, as a Canadian (he would be a great asset to the national team once he receives citizenship), is to play college basketball in the United States. It's important for the proper people to do what we can to see that it happens.

He needs to get into the U.S., for himself first and this country second.

Mikey said...

I think the unfair immigration policies of any country can be fair game for debate or criticism, the US included.

Is it right to criticize a nation like Malaysia or other Arab nations because they won't allow any Israeli citizens through its borders including international sporting events?

Is it ethical to bar HIV positive people from travelling to certain nations because of the presumption of their health risks?

Would it have been unfair of another nation to be critical of Canada's unfair immigration policies of the past?

Sudan is governed by Muslims who have very, very questionable human rights records. Sudan is also a nation with a substantial Christian minority. A legitimate debate can be had how immigration/refugees from nations in strife and in the conflict zones should be handled.

Are we right to tell the Americans what to do? No.

But if people believe in human rights and the diginity of persons, they have the right (and some might argue moral obligation) to be vocal in presenting arguments for those policies to change.