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In Their Own Words: Five Women Offer Thoughts on Chauncey Billups Hire

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The Trail Blazers’ offer to a potential new coach gives rise to complex responses.

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Sacramento Kings v Portland Trail Blazers Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images

Last night major media outlets reported that the Portland Trail Blazers had offered their vacant head coaching position to Chauncey Billups, a former NBA player and current assistant coach with the Los Angeles Clippers. In 2000, Billups settled a civil lawsuit stemming from a 1997 incident in which a woman said she was sexually assaulted by Billups and other Boston Celtics players at the time. No criminal charges were filed. Police reports published in the book “Out of Bounds” by Jeff Benedict, summarized here and here [trigger warning for graphic descriptions], detail the narrative and aftermath.

The community surrounding the Blazers had a strong reaction to the news. Many voices weighed in. Today, we’re sharing a few of those with you. These are the responses of some of the women in the Trail Blazers community. This is neither a scientific sample nor a trial of evidence. It’s not meant to be. We asked for thoughts in the wake of the hiring. These women shared theirs.

This is a chance for us to hear stories that seldom get public airing, and to learn a little more about how these issues affect our community. We present them as offered by the women who speak here, in their own words.


Jen

I have a lot of feelings about this hire.

First and foremost is that I wish it wasn’t happening, but it’s been clear that this has been Olshey’s choice from the beginning and he prefers, like many of us do I guess, to be surrounded by people he’s worked with before.

I will not claim to be an expert on what happened with Billups. In a women’s basketball forum I am part of we have had a lot of discussions about this. I tried to temper my response with the fact that historically white women have used rape charges against black men whether they were true or not and so there is a certain historical awfulness beyond the obvious cultural misogyny. In other words, like most issues, it’s not cut and dried. However, the situation seem to be very egregious.

Also, I tend to believe the woman because women are silenced and often victimized again by society for speaking up (hence why so few do). Also it’s very hard to speak up about such issues and often their lives are affected forever while the perpetrators get to move on.

It’s unfortunate that this is being brought in to the team, as I don’t think these questions are ever going to go away. I understand for a large swath of the fan base they don’t care. And I guess that’s a luxury they have. But as most women have experienced sexual violence, domestic violence, or both in their lifetime or know someone close to them that has, it’s a little hard to just set it aside and day “let’s not talk about it, think about it, or hold anyone to account because it is the past.”

It seems to me women are often asked to get over things when society in general can’t get over things that happened much longer ago but somehow they hold on to those things but DV and SA are just supposed to be brushed under the rug. There are people flipping out that actual history is taught (don’t get me started) and willing to commit violence over it, but women should shut up over actual crimes.

I do believe in redemption. It’s just the context matters. And for those who suffer at the hands of people who maybe later are really redeemed, that part of the floor is just never quite the same. How do you reconcile? I get forgiveness. But I wonder the toll on the entirety of that woman’s life while the toll for Billups has been minimal.

I’m a lifelong Blazer fan. I grew up on this team and on basketball. I hate that this is now the frame I have of this team. And that I have to consider my lifelong passion more closely and ask myself if I am going to keep supporting the team. I love Dame. But I wonder as he has a daughter now if this will give him pause in the future? Maybe not, as Kobe never suffered. I just expect more of Dame (& the Kidd thing was very disappointing) but he does not have to be perfect & I should not expect him to be. My esteem for him is so high perhaps my expectations are unrealistic (likely). But this is really hard to get over.

I look at how easy it was for Jason Kidd to land a head coaching job despite the fact that it’s clear he has not changed, and in that way at least in public record is different from Billups. But no one anyone’s else seemed to care. It was a freak out here, but everywhere else seems not am issue. What does that say? It speaks to the fact that we do a lot of public hand-wringing PR and speaking about quote unquote morals etc. when actually our country was founded on all of this, violence against women and children — whether physical or sexual — it’s all part and parcel of the same thing. And we like to look away, and we like to not deal with it — either the explicit manifestations of it or the implicit manifestations of it, not that that should be surprising since we do the same thing with racism and always have. I’m questioning my support of the team.

At this juncture don’t know where I’m going to land because I feel a little bit guilty if I keep supporting the team based on this choice. I’m trying to keep an open mind about redemption and possible conversations more out in the open about these issues that could lead to something better. But I remain skeptical. I do know a significant number of women who are just as die hard as I am who are saying, at this juncture, they will no longer be cheering for the Blazers. Though, let’s be honest, The Blazers largely ignore the female contingent, which is crazy as, TBH, we are as knowledgeable than the men and frankly, far less critical, global and forgiving. But we are not seen as the $ demographic, I get it. I do think it speaks to the tone deafness, and not just of men but in some cases women too, and our society in general that these things don’t carry more weight and that they are brushed under the carpet generally so everyone can feel comfortable and not have to grapple with issues.


A.B.

Typically I have more to say. Typically I can scream and shout and stand up for what I believe in. That is not the case right now.

At this moment, I feel unheard. I feel like my feelings and opinions—and those of the women I love and respect, who have survived abuse—don’t matter at all.

They dangled a woman’s name in front of us to make us think she had a chance, and then turned around and hired a man with rape allegations against him.

I feel completely drained. When will men fight for women? When will NBA players stand up for what’s right and make a point to denounce violence against women? Why are we in this fight alone? How much longer do we have to be in it alone?

Chauncey doesn’t even have a proven track record—he is less qualified, on paper, than Becky Hammon is. Than Mike D’Antoni is. There are dozens of people suited for this job, and we had to choose this one.

I’m sorry I can’t offer more to this conversation, but I’m so sick of having it. I’m so sick of feeling like men don’t care about what happens to us. I’m so sick of being told to separate the man from the athlete.

I don’t know what this means for my fandom moving forward, but it feels like a punch in the gut. I realize this isn’t eloquent, but this is what I can offer right now.


K.R.

A string of images and words, most of which are not related to basketball. Because that’s how infiltration works.

I think of the nurse who called the detective that night following the rape kit exam. I scan my eyes again over the words in the Waltham Police Department report.

“Allegation,” “Accused.” Billups claimed it was “consensual.” I remember the injury list from Boston Medical Center.

I wondered what it was like for her to see Billups’ name from time to time in the headlines, connected to some team, some strategy, or now, a new head coaching position.

The civil court settlement. The legalese in the court documents I’d read a while back. I wondered what words were exchanged in the conversation I assume happened when the Blazers’ front office, and Dame himself asked Billups’ point blank straight up, about November 11, 1997.

I think about myself as that little girl back in the 1970s with posters of Bill Walton, Maurice Lucas, Darryl Dawkins, and Dr. J plastered across my bedroom walls. That was the little girl before.

I don’t know in a linear, concrete, articulate way why the night feels heavy as I’m scrolling through the news feeds, and reading everyone’s excitement about “defense” and a “fresh start.” It’s all of it, I guess. The before, the after. I wanted to be one of those excited, as well, about whoever the new Blazers hire would be. But I’m not.

I miss the before of these memories—mine, real ones, which are not “alleged” but which had their share of disbelievers due to, well, disbelief. Discomfort. Horror.

This random-to-the-grand-scheme-of-life coaching hire brought it all back up on this also random sweltering Portland summer night. Because that’s how infiltration works. Doesn’t mean I can’t place it all back where it was, nestled, doesn’t mean I’m not okay, because I am. Because I’m practiced at this.

Because now I’m in the “after.” Because the after continues to be the after for assault survivors. It’s isolating and everyone thinks you just move on. But it tends to infiltrate.

And now the face of the Blazers is Billups. And I, and other survivors, will have a jab of a reminder to deal with whenever another story or social media post resurfaces about Billups and his past. And now that is part of the Blazers’ experience, for at least some life-long Blazers fans, and it didn’t have to be.


Bailey

I feel like the NBA has made it very clear that it is fine with violence against women and that any support it offers to female fans is little more than pandering. It’s never been more clear how little they care. It’s sickening, and I hate how unsurprised I feel about it.

I’m just a sports-obsessed trans woman from Dallas. I love women’s sports and also the NBA. The MNBA, as I prefer to call it. The NBA felt safe, apparently more progressive than leagues like the NFL, MLB, or NHL. And then Sports Illustrated exposed the Dallas Mavericks organization for its ingrained misogyny and culture of violence going back 20 years. As a lifelong Mavs fan, I felt betrayed. I felt righteously angry. I pulled no punches in my tweets about the organization.

And I cut all ties.

I didn’t know if I would even continue watching the NBA, but I guess some part of me wasn’t ready to let that go. So I opened myself up. As a lover of the Pacific Northwest and a long-time fan of one Damian Lillard, it quickly became obvious where my heart was leading me.

So you can imagine how much it sucks to be in the exact same position 3 years later. Not only did my favorite NBA player publicly profess his preference to be coached by a notorious domestic abuser, but the team’s embattled GM quickly fixated on a candidate with an equally ignominious background: Chauncey Billups. Billups was credibly accused of gang rape in 2000 and settled out of court. I’d say it was a sign of how sexist that era of the NBA was that it was all basically brushed under the rug, but here we are in 2021, when Luke Walton, Jason Kidd, and Chauncey Billups are all head coaches.

But Neil Olshey thinks this is the person to lead the team. A man with a history of violence against women, with less than a year of coaching experience. The reporting that Jody Allen allegedly preferred Becky Hammon feels like complete bullshit in hindsight. This organization never cared about women. And I have to wonder if this league does either.


Caitlin

There is a Jane Doe out there who says that Chauncey Billups hurt her in the same way that someone once hurt me – and I believe her. Because I believe her, the news that Billups is likely the next Trail Blazers head coach has brought up a lot of hurt and anger for me.

I’m hurt to think that I, and many other fans, are being told to set aside our personal traumatic experiences in order to watch the team we love. About 18% of all women and 3% of all men have been victims of sexual violence in our lifetime and the statistics are significantly worse for women of color and members of the LGBTQ community. While the NBA fanbase is steadily diversifying, these kinds of hiring decisions send a strong message that we’re not actually valued or respected.

I’m angry that in 2021, a credible accusation of rape is not a disqualifier in the hiring process for such an elite position. There are only 30 head coaches in the entire league at any given point in time. I don’t expect them to be angels or boy scouts or even all that likable, but I do expect that the league recognizes that these are highly visible, privileged positions and that the integrity of these leaders matters to our communities.

This impending announcement has brought a surprising small comfort, however: the unanimous response from the men in my life who are expressing disgust and frustration at this choice. They’re Blazers superfans, but several of them have talked about walking away from the team entirely if Billups is hired. I think our society has learned a lot about the power of collective action and solidarity in the past few years. It really sucks that Neil Olshey hasn’t caught on yet.

If Olshey ever has a moment of reflection and realizes he has totally lost touch with the spirit of the team and the city that loves them, all he needs to do is look to the team name for a reminder: we’re the Trail Blazers. Have the courage and vision to do the right thing and to make forward progress, Neil! Don’t let us down like this.


You can also find reflections from Blazer’s Edge writer Dia Miller here.

We ask you to keep in mind that these are personal stories and reflections requiring vulnerability and trust to share. Please let that affect how, or whether, you respond in the comment section.