Trump’s Olympic Put-Back Shot

The president’s golden opportunity to restore an American victory.

In January, while president-elect Trump was preparing to take office, the International Olympic Committee found that in 2008 Jamaican sprinter Nesta Carter, teammate of Usain Bolt, had violated anti-doping rules. Therefore, the entire Jamaican 4x100-meter relay team would have to return their gold medals, which now belong to the team from Trinidad. 

Long before this reversal, way back in 1972, the Olympic bosses took away the gold medals the American men’s basketball team won fair and square and gave the medals to the Soviet team they defeated. Other presidents failed to address this theft, but President Trump, who is fond of winning, has a golden opportunity to restore the victory. The facts are all on his side. 

With its youngest team ever, all collegians, the United States defeated an older more experienced Soviet team, for all practical purposes a professional squad. The Soviets led most of the way, but in the closing seconds, with the USA behind 49-48, Illinois State’s Doug Collins picked off a Soviet pass and drove for a layup. 

Soviet player Zurab Sakandelidze knocked Collins hard into the basket stanchion. Collins was slow to get up but stepped up to the line and sank both free throws, putting the USA up 50-49. The Soviets failed to score during the final three seconds. The USA had won the game and maintained their Olympic record. 

As the young American players celebrated their hard-earned victory, Renato William Jones, Secretary General of FIBA, the international basketball organization, came out of the stands and ordered the officials to put three seconds back on the clock. Jones, a friend of the Soviet Union, had no authority to make such a demand but the Olympic officials duly complied.

They put time back on the clock not once, not twice, but three times. The third time the Soviets scored a basket and the Olympic officials gave them the gold medal. It was as though, in 1980, Olympic officials had prolonged the USA hockey team’s “miracle on ice” until the Soviets could pull out a win. 

In 1972 the Americans decided not to show up for the silver because they had won the gold fair and square, on the court. They were right, and there is no other side to this argument. Those who have doubts might consult Doug Collins, who was present at the time. 

FIBA boss Renato William Jones wanted the Soviet team to win, which he confirmed with his post-game statement:  “The Americans have to learn how to lose, even when they think they are right.” President Trump might disagree with that, and it’s never too late for a U.S. president to take a stand.

The President Formerly Known as Barry Soetoro (PFKBS) was reportedly quite a hoopster in his day. In 2012 and 2016 he had wide-open shots for perhaps the greatest put-back in history. Both times he failed to stand up for his country’s winning basketball team. His opinion on the game remains a mystery, like so much else about him.  

As Paul Kengor noted in The Communist, Barry Soetoro’s mentor Frank Marshall Davis was a pro-Soviet Communist with an FBI file 600 pages long. Professor Kengor found “remarkable similarities” between Davis’ writings and the president’s policies. So maybe the PFKBS was okay with the result. 

In Dreams from My Father, published in 1995, the author seemed to lament the demise of the Soviet Union, which he never criticized. During his two terms as president, the PFKBS acted like those Olympic officials in 1972, putting time back on the clock for failed statist, high-regulation policies. 

He failed to join other Western leaders at the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. During his second term, Fidel Castro’s Communist regime was on its last legs, but instead of calling for free elections, human rights, and the release of prisoners, the 44th president put time back on the clock for this Sado-Stalinist dictatorship

Given all that, it was not a difficult matter for the President Formerly Known as Barry Soetoro to ignore the theft of the USA’s gold medal. President Trump should play it a different way.

The president should demand that the IOC strip the 1972 gold medals from the USSR team, which lost the game. Then, in a public ceremony, the IOC should give the gold medals to the USA Olympic basketball team of Mike Bantam, Jim Brewer, Tom Burleson, Doug Collins, Kenny Davis, James Forbes, Tom Henderson, Bobby Jones, Dwight Jones, Kevin Joyce, Tom McMillen and Ed Ratleff. The Soviet losers can have the silver medals the USA rightly refused to accept. 

If the IOC tries to play games, President Trump should note their lucrative marketing in the USA, and raise the prospect of U.S. participation in future Olympics. Recall that President Jimmy Carter held out the United States from the 1980 Olympics in Moscow. This is a slam dunk for President Trump, who should bring the victorious players to the White House. 

“We are going to start winning again,” Donald Trump said in February of 2016. He won the presidency fair and square, and should now restore the American Olympic victory. That will rectify an injustice and boost morale for greater victories to come.