Everyone knew these Olympics would be political. We knew the stadium-sized gapbetween the so-called Olympic ideals and the commercial feeding frenzyin Beijing would stagger the faint of heart.
But we are also now seeing, in the towering form of seven-foot-two-inch Hamed Ehadadi, the hypocrisy of a United States that will sing the praises of China and ruthlessly punish Iran, defining the "axis of evil" on an ethically bankrupt scale. Ehadadi plays the center position on Iran’s national basketball team. In four Olympic games, he scored 16.5 points and grabbed ten rebounds. Most impressively, he dropped 21 on an Argentinian team loaded with pro talent. NBA front offices salivated and began to line up to talk about contracts. One of the teams interested in Ehadadi was the Memphis Grizzlies, where he could enhanced their already formidable team featuring explosive wingmen OJ Mayo and Rudy Gay. But then the State Department stepped in. "We have been advised that a federal statute prohibits a person or organization in the United States from engaging in business dealings with Iranian nationals," is howYahoo! Sports quoted the NBA legal counsel.
David Stern and the league office followed suit, ordering all clubs to cease and desist talks with Ehadadi’s people. The cowardice of Stern is really striking. He likes to sing the praises of the NBA’s embrace of globalization. Players in China, who arrive in the NBA with a hometown fan base in the hundreds of millions are welcomed with open arms. Yet Iran clearly is just a bridgetoo far.
Ehadadi’s story exposes how US sanctions can affect the life of an individual, not to mention how it can serve to isolate and humiliate an entire country. It also shows how these sanctions are more likely to affect ordinary–even those of the seven-foot-two variety–people first.
Iran has seen its international standing and national psyche severely tarnished all at the whims of US foreign policy. Remember that Iran was a nation that came out in support of the United States after 9/11 and even offered intelligence support against what they saw as a common enemy–AlQaeda. In response to this gesture and before the election of the bogeyman Ahmedinejad, Bush and the neocons isolated Iran with a vengeance. They had dreams of quick victory in Iraq and a colony in theoil rich gulf. That didn’t quite work, so we are left with Seymour Hershreports about imminent war and the petty punishments of people like Ehadadi.
Iran’s assistant coach Mehran Hatami said, "I am sure he (Ehadadi) willplay there this season because he has been great (at the Olympics). Heis a talented player. He is OK for beginning in the NBA. Afterpracticing a few years, you will see that he will be one of the greatplayers."
I agree, but he will have to be offered the chance to makethat a reality. Given our country’s bellicose policy towards Iran, that window of opportunity appears to be as closing faster Usain Bolt.