So, Is Team USA Muzzled, Or Not?

Jerry Colangelo and Mike Krzyzewski have said things about how marvelous the U.S. is, in that we do not muzzle our players nor hinder their freedom of speech. (That was in the same report where all the players parroted, almost to the word, Colangelo's stance shutting down all political speech.)

Michael Lee of the Washington Post followed up with the team's managing director and head caoch in Beijing yesterday, and got even stronger statements:

Some have speculated that U.S. Managing Director Jerry Colangelo recently addressed the team and told them to avoid politicizing these Olympics. "That's not true -- absolutely unequivocally not," Colangelo said this week. "As a matter of fact, I did the opposite. [I told them,] 'If your heart tells you say it, say it.' We told our players, no one has a muzzle. Some of us voiced our opinions. My opinion was, we're here for the Olympics. We're here for the sport. There is a lot more we can accomplish by doing what we need to do."
U.S. Coach Mike Krzyzewski echoed Colangelo. "Any of our players can speak about whatever they want to speak," he said. "But I think we've all taken the approach that we're here for sport. We want to make sure that we're good ambassadors for our country and make sure that we're representing our game here in the Olympics."

For the record, that original report did not claim that Colangelo instructed the team to avoid politics. The report said that Colangelo addressed the team about those kinds of questions, and said his personal view was that it was a time for sport and not politics.

He must have a big personality! Because then the whole Team USA staff, even guys like LeBron James and Kobe Bryant who had positioned themselves as leaders on the Darfur issue, suddenly adopted his exact same view, and it seems to be sticking.

(Although James did depart a tad from the party line to say this to Lee: "I said if I was asked the question then I would answer, and I'd say that basic human rights should be protected. That's how I feel. It's not going to go further than that. It's not going to go less than that.")

In any case, you can't help but wonder -- did Kobe Bryant and LeBron James decide not to use the Olympics as a platform for political conversation because they decided not to, or because they were told not to?

Chris Bosh is on that team too, and he has insight. Consider this exchange with Matthew Sekeres of the Globe and Mail:

Q: Chris, would you take this opportunity to make a political statement?

A: No.

Q: Have you been instructed not to?

A: Yes. It's a no-win situation these days.