Early Wednesday morning, Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski declined an opportunity to comment on Indiana’s bonkers Religious Freedom Act, telling reporters, “when we get to Indiana, I’m not going to talk about social issues or poverty or anything else. I’m just going to talk about this Duke basketball team.” And while Krzyzewski would attach his name later in the day to a joint statement issued by all four 2015 Final Four head coaches, The Nation’s Dave Zirin would’ve preferred a more principled stance the first time around.
To be clear, I am not arguing that Mike Krzyzewski should come out and stand with the LGBT community, if that is not what he believes. The man is a longtime Republican donor who in 2002 deeply upset people in Durham when he held a fundraiser on campus at the Duke Inn and called his party Blue Devils for Dole. In other words, Coach K has a number of options for how he could respond to this mushrooming controversy. He could support the school that pays him an annual $10 million salary and stand with their statement. He could support the NCAA, an organization whose artificial restrictions of what his players can earn has made him an incredibly wealthy man. He could even join the many Republicans in the state of Indiana who oppose the law and make an “I Stand With NASCAR” joke. Or Coach K could take a deep breath, hike up his big boy pants and say, “You know what? Duke and the NCAA and NASCAR are wrong. I support this law because I believe in God, freedom, and heterosexual florists. Oh, and gay weddings are overrated, and it’s about damn time America woke up to that fact!”
But instead, Coach K, like a certain fellow Nike pitchman, just gave us his version of “Republicans buy sneakers too.” It also looks particularly weak in the aftermath of the passing of Coach K’s great rival, Dean Smith. The passionately principled Coach Smith would not have only spoken out against the law. He would be leading a delegation to the statehouse to confront Mike Pence in between practices, no matter how much backlash it would have meant for him back home in North Carolina.