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Basketball Australia should back Abby Bishop and have a heart

Family before country: Abby Bishop will not go to the basketball World Championships this year.

Family before country: Abby Bishop will not go to the basketball World Championships this year. Photo: Katherine Griffiths

‘‘Keeping the sanctity of high performance’’… ’’If Abby follows the policy, we’ll have her back in a heartbeat.’’

Really, Basketball Australia?

We’re used to reading of athletes sacrificing family time for their sport, and of athletes sacrificing their sport for family.

Abby Bishop’s story today of opting out of the world championships because of what it would cost her to take the baby in her care along falls into the latter.

But we’re becoming almost as used to Australia’s basketball authorities showing a tin ear when it comes to PR, especially relating to the women who earn such a piddling amount to play at the elite level.

In defending their decision to craft a whole new policy around players taking kids on tour in order to force Bishop, a semi-professional who’s effectively a single mum caring for her sister’s seven-month-old Zala, BA has shown again that it just doesn’t get it.

High performance manager Chuck Harmison, who believes strongly in the ‘‘sanctity’’ of his realm, has said: ‘‘We’re on a limited budget and if we start opening it up to covering costs of caregivers, we’ll run out of money pretty quickly and won’t win any medals’’.

Ah, the old thin end of the wedge argument. In this case, the argument is that if Bishop is helped to travel with her baby, that would open the floodgates.  Suddenly other women and men in elite basketball would be wanting to pack their families for a free ride. It would drive BA broke! We’d never win any medals!

Come on, Chuck.

If you really need a policy response, how about you make one that says if a player has selflessly volunteered to care for the baby of a family member due to no doubt compelling personal reasons then, and only then, BA might cut them some slack.

That’d mean no, Andrew Bogut, you can’t mooch off the team by flying your future kiddos around the world with the Boomers, threatening our hopes of ever winning any more medals. You could rest easy, Chuck.

Would it really be hard for a) BA to find the extra resources to help Bishop out here, because really how expensive must a larger hotel room be in Turkey or to find a local nanny or spare set of hands among the entourage during games and training and b) to accept that hers is a special case, a heart-warming, exceptional instance of family love, not an ordinary decision of an athlete to become a mum.

You’d think BA might even see the on-court and PR advantage in supporting this athlete, like her WNBL club the Capitals does, or like the Hungarian club she’s playing with right now.

But no, this is the organisation that has stumbled from one PR disaster to another, often over the trivial or the fixable.

The most memorable case was when Fairfax revealed the Aussie women’s team flew to the London Olympics in economy while the men’s team flew business.

They’ve censured Capitals skipper Jess Bibby for speaking out about the lack of support for the women’s league, including how WNBL players had lost access to the airport lounge still enjoyed by the NBL players.

They’ve had to defend putting the NZ men’s basketball team in what the Kiwi players called a ‘‘cheap ass’’ hotel here in Canberra while the Boomers stayed in the Novotel.

Then mid-last year BA boss Kristina Keneally went on the attack on social media when the Canberra Times reporters had the gall to question why the Boomers had held training camp in Canberra but allowed no media access.

It seemed insane for a sport struggling for profile to block media interest, and leading players like Bogut and Liz Cambage agreed.

In defending it Keneally implied sexism, that it was male sports reporters only caring about a media lockout because it was the men’s team.

Wrong. We’ve consistently shown we’re behind our female basketballers. 

It’s a shame when it comes to Abby Bishop and Zala, Basketball Australia isn’t showing its support.

3 comments so far

  • Ahh Chuck, I'm sure it'd be different if it were you that was still playing!!
    No wonder this game continues to fail to get traction in this country.
    I could quote a few episodes that you let the "sanctity" slip.

    Commenter
    Jack
    Location
    Capital
    Date and time
    April 09, 2014, 12:23PM
    • Judging cases on their merits and on a case by case basis seems like an easy no brainer.
      Granted a male or female player who have a partner who can look after the child fair enough. But single mums/dads or guardians should be judged on it's individual merits. Seems fair enough.

      Commenter
      Jitter
      Date and time
      April 09, 2014, 1:12PM
      • It is 2014 not 1914. BA should move with the times - although I fear its responses to other issues means that there will be no acceptable decision on this front. And Chuck's claim to want to "... keep the sanctity of high performance ..." doesn't cut it any more. Really Chuck, you are displaying despicable discrimination and sexism here. Is it code for "get rid of the baby and we'll let you play"? Aside from anything else, Ms Bishop is not only a wonderful basketballer and an adornment to the game, she is a fantastic ambassador for her sport. Dear oh dear ...

        Commenter
        HG
        Date and time
        April 09, 2014, 4:15PM

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