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. You can find thoughts and stories from other women in this post. These are mine.
I wrote a thread on twitter today.
Twitter is my most used social media app. It’s the first thing I look at in the morning when I wake up and the last thing I look at before I go to sleep at night. This morning, I noticed a pattern of tweets on my timeline about the impeding hiring of Jason Kidd as the Mavericks head coach. I read tweet after tweet that appeared to be people confused as to why there was push back, because Kidd is a “good coach” and “knows basketball” and “Dallas loves him”.
I could have closed the app, and went back to sleep, or gone about my day and picked it up again in a few days with hopes that these conversations would have died down by then. But I didn’t. Instead, I wrote a thread on twitter.
There’s this innate part of me that believes that people are good. I can’t help but hope that people don’t mean to be hurtful or rude or unkind, but rather that it comes from a place of hurt or feelings of inadequacy or even more likely—a lack of understanding. I can’t help but think that if people just understood each other, the world would really be full of sunshine and rainbows. So I wrote a thread on twitter.
You see, I am a victim of abuse. I spent several years of my life in an abusive relationship and even though a significant amount of time has passed, I’ve been in therapy, and I’m currently in a great place in my life—I still deal with trauma from that experience. It’s colored my entire existence. I have no say in that.
I wrote that in the thread on twitter.
I spent the next several hours trying to field people’s comments and re-tweets, trying to clarify that my intent was not to dictate how anyone else acted or felt, nor was it to make Kidd’s life miserable. I simply saw an opportunity to share something personal in hopes of creating a more inclusive, thoughtful conversation about the hiring of a head coach with a checkered past and how that could be problematic. For hours, what I got instead was a fair amount of backlash and victim blaming from @user12345 with the superstar player as an avatar.
As my anxiety began to heighten and the urge to delete the thread became overwhelming, I got a message. “Your voice is important and you speak for lots of women who are feeling the same things right now about the situation.” That wasn’t the last of that sentiment. Messages and comments and re-tweets from other women started coming with the same heart. I wasn’t the only one feeling this way.
In a stroke of irony that rivaled the Alanis Morrisette song, just minutes later, the Shams tweet came through. “The Portland Trail Blazers are locked in on Clippers assistant Chauncey Billups as their new head coach and are hopeful to finalize a deal”. My heart immediately dropped into my stomach as I realized the bullet I initially dodged had just circled back around and was coming for me.
While there are differences between the allegations and the outcome of Kidd’s case and Billups’ case, the feelings surrounding them are similar— and both are problematic and triggering for those who have dealt with the sensitive issues of abuse, domestic violence and rape.
I’ve gone through an array of emotions since the names of these two men have been brought up—sadness, disbelief, anger, astonishment, frustration, disappointment. I’ve been faced with the possibility that my life long Trail Blazers fandom (more than 30 years) may see it’s end with this decision. This isn’t a matter of boycott, or pushing back against the system, or refusing to associate with someone or something. At it’s core, the idea of no longer being a Trail Blazers fan due to the new head coach having had a past of abuse, is simply a form of self-preservation—taking care of my own mental health. I don’t know if I have the capacity to watch the game that I love be tainted by the anxiety that comes with facing this trauma. The decision to have to distance myself from something that’s brought me so much joy is painful all on it’s own, and I know I am not alone.
I know this not only from the magnitude of the messages, tweets, re-tweets, comments and texts I’ve received from women in absolute agony over this, but also simply from the fact that 1 in 3 women have been subjected to either physical or sexual abuse from a partner (according to the World Health Organization estimates). I am 1 in 3. Probably other women in your life are as well. You may not know, because speaking up about this, especially in the male dominated world of sports, is difficult to say the least. It’s never met with complete support, but rather with excuses, victim blaming and harsh words.
It has been an incredible joy to watch the NBA come together over the last year and fight for equality and social justice. People have used their platforms, and stood with those who had long been standing alone. I have hope that at some point in the future, that will also include not giving prominent positions of power and bigger platforms to men who inflicted pain on women.
While the contracts haven’t yet been signed, and the official announcement has not yet come, it looks like Chauncy Billups will be the next head coach of the Portland Trail Blazers. For me— as a writer covering the team for Blazers Edge, a podcaster chatting with Dave Deckard every week on the Dave and Dia show, a fan who was once a little girl with a life-size poster of Clyde Drexler, and a mother watching my children fall in love with the team I’ve loved since I was their age, and a woman who is a survivor of abuse— I’m coming to terms with the fact that my Trail Blazers fandom may no longer be the same.