The Double Standard of Nationalization by Joel Embiid

The Double Standard of Nationalization by Joel Embiid

The Double Standard of Nationalization by Joel Embiid

A few weeks ago, various media repeated the news published by RMC Sport that Cameroonian player and NBA star Joel Embiid had initiated the administrative procedures to obtain French citizenship and thus play with the national basketball team at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games The article added that after the season concluded with the Philadelphia 76ers, who were eliminated in the conference semifinals in mid-May, Embiid would travel to France to complete the filing process.

Much has been written about the qualitative leap that it would mean for the French team to be able to rely on the 28-year-old center, but beyond the basketball aspect of a top athlete being granted the nationality of a country to which he has an extremely weak connection is a debate that also needs to be put on the table.

This practice is not new to basketball, having become quite common over the past several decades, particularly among American players. It got to the point where there were players who acquired the nationality of countries they didn’t even know how to find on the map, like Mike Tobey who acquired the nationality of Slovenia to play with the national team to be able to participate in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

On other occasions, the interested player had never set foot in the country that bestowed his nationality, like Earl Calloway did with Bulgaria. It is often the basketball federations of the various countries themselves that approach players to offer them citizenship and put pressure on governments to carry out the relevant procedures. In this sense, the case of Slovenia stands out, where the basketball federation encouraged flexibility and amendment of the legislation, which only allowed citizenship to be granted to people who had lived in the country for at least one year. This change allowed Anthony Randolph to gain nationality and play Eurobasket 2017 with the Slovenian team, a country he knew little about.

Spain has been no exception, and with a view to hosting the Eurobasket this summer, the federation is specifically seeking to nationalize American point guard Lorenzo Brown, an athlete who only enters the country when playing in the Euroleague against Spaniards and their affiliation to Spain does not exist. However, Ricky Rubio’s injury and Sergio Rodríguez’s retirement from the basketball team, among others, have encouraged the FEB to seek this alternative for this summer’s competition.

This case marks a precedent because although on previous occasions (such as Wayne Brabender, Chicho Sibilio, Johnny Rogers, or more recently Serge Ibaka or Nikola Mirotic, among others) Spain has used nationalization to complete the national team, it has always been a player who have lived in Spain for some time and play for Spanish teams. This is in stark contrast to Lorenzo Brown, whose only known contact with the country was while with the Toronto Raptors as coached by Spain coach Sergio Scariolo.

It is a fully legal process that benefits all parties: players, agents, federations and competitions. Although it is also true that in some cases citizenship has been shown to have been obtained fraudulently, such as in the passport case or in Will McDonald’s sham marriage. It is even common to suggest that the federations have offered financial incentives to athletes to play for their country, as Shammond Williams did with Georgia.

The acceptance threshold for basketball players is very high, as it is assumed that better athletic results can be achieved through their presence.

In any case, they are all examples that show how easy it can be to obtain citizenship of any country, regardless of origin, if you have a specific interest in the person. Something that, especially for Europeans, stands in stark contrast to the immense difficulties that many migrants face, not to obtain citizenship but simply to be able to legalize their situation. Administrative, police and judicial obstacles that they constantly encounter and which, in many cases, make them feel insecure and whose rights are not respected. All this despite the fact that they are people who have a close connection to this state, as they live, work and are part of the community. This is where the double standard comes into play: in the comparative offensive, how the attitude of institutional and social reception towards migrants is based on the actual or supposed benefit they are supposed to have.

The acceptance threshold for basketball players is very high because it is assumed that their presence can lead to better sporting results by compensating for any deficits of the team in a certain position. For this reason, there are major differences in naturalization compared to another person of the same age who is willing to come from another country and for whom a small advantage is assumed. The most obvious are the requirements for the procedures, which are much more flexible and relaxed, both in terms of time and procedures.

Another fundamental point that needs to be emphasized is the difference between the process of obtaining citizenship as it is managed for the players by an organization (the basketball federation) which is dependent on the government of the country. It is not the person himself who must invest his time and resources in dealing with the institutions to regulate his situation. The most remarkable difference, however, is the subordinate role played by prejudices and stereotypes due to cultural differences, characteristic of the discourse that takes a restrictive and punitive attitude towards the migrant population trying to regulate their situation.

What does it say about the values ​​of a society that values ​​a sporting result more than the people who collect the food that is eaten in the country, or who build the houses that the population of that country lives in, or who take care of those in need of care People?

All of this isn’t just true in basketball (or sport in general) where when a government offers citizenship to a player it has become something of a transfer market, but it’s happening on many more levels. The common pattern is differential access and process based on perceived benefit to the citizenship seeker, based on an entirely subjective perception tied to potential economic capability. This is something that completely belittles the situation of many migrants, who find it difficult to regulate their situation when such cases prove to be a matter of purely political will.

What does it say about the values ​​of a society that values ​​a sporting result more than the people who collect the food that is eaten in the country, or who build the houses that the population of that country lives in, or who take care of those in need of care people, to name a few. Perhaps it is people who do not make the fight for an Olympic medal possible, but in many other aspects (cultural, economic, etc.) generate much more wealth for the country and, as the pandemic has shown, for the functioning of society. .

Alvaro Hervas He is an anthropologist specializing in migration and development cooperation.