My Presidential Election Experience
As the recent Presidential Election conclude, Kyle Hines gives his unique persecutive of his experience living overseas during three of the most historical elections in US History.
(Edited by Mac Casey)
The Hoop Journey for professional players overseas is more than just basketball and what happens on the court. We are foreign players in a foreign land, and we become immersed in the culture of the countries we are playing in. It isn’t always an easy transition for players to make, but those that do it well usually have the most success and end up having longer careers. And as Americans living in these countries, it makes you more aware of global issues happening in the world, especially the newsworthy stories we don’t always hear about at home. For those reasons, I was inspired to write a post about my experience living overseas during the United States Presidential Election. I have lived abroad for what could be three of the most historical elections in US history (2008, 2012 and 2016), and have lived in a different country for each one.
Now I’m far from a political analyst, but in my opinion politics and athletics go hand-in-hand. You see it all the time, “Breaking News on Sports Center, so and so endorses Hilary Clinton” or “55% of NFL locker rooms are going to vote for Donald Trump.” As an American living through this presidential debate, I was often asked my opinion on the issues at hand. Not too long ago I did a special interview solely about my thoughts on the most recent election for a Russian TV Station (more to come). I point this out to show that even though we aren’t qualified, for some reason people care about the opinions of athletes. This election seems to have gotten more coverage, maybe because of the rise of social media or the numerous scandalous headlines from each candidate. But regardless, around the world it seems like a daily topic of discussion.
My first season playing professional basketball in Europe was in 2008, in a small town about 40 minutes outside of Rome named Veroli. I would travel to Rome very often during the week to go out to eat, visit friends, and go to nightclubs. I developed a good sense of the city and its Roman people. And like I said earlier, I’ve never really been heavily into politics, but I understood the magnitude of the 2008 election, with the opportunity to elect the first African American President. I knew Barack Obama being elected would be a widely celebrated event in the United States, but as a 21-year-old who had never left the USA before, I didn’t expect it to be celebrated as much throughout the entire world. Once Obama was announced as the new US presidential elect, the Italian news media showed crowds of people cheering and celebrating in the streets of Rome. There was even a celebratory rally held at The Coliseum the day after the election (look it up on Youtube if you don’t believe me)! Many Italians were dancing and celebrating the fact that America had elected its first black president, and watching that celebration unfold in front of one of the country’s most famous monuments was an amazing moment to experience.
Later that night, I decided to go to a popular hip hop club, where a lot of basketball players playing in Italy liked to hang out. I was expecting it be a “normal club night” but to my surprise it was the opposite. The club was decorated in red, white and blue and everything was Obama themed. The DJ kept playing “My President is Black” by Young Jeezy. I felt like I was in New York City or L.A rather than in Rome, the way people were celebrating Obama. People were even walking around with Obama t-shirts on, which I remember people selling in the streets leading up to the election. I was able to witness first-hand the international reaction to President Obama’s victory, and it was the first time I became of aware of how historical America’s election can be and how they effects the entire world.
In 2012 I was living and playing in Athens, Greece for the historical team Olympiacos. 2012 was a difficult year for people living in Athens. The country and people of Greece were in the middle of a financial debt crisis. Many people lost their jobs and wages were cut in half. Taxes also were increased, which had a negative effect on the Greek people. Unemployment and crime was rising. Many businesses and restaurants were forced to close. Strikes and protest occurred daily, along with riots and fights with the police in Syntagma Square.
A common theme of the 2012 election was “The Economy,” not just in the USA but across the globe. The USA was still recovering from a financial crisis that eventually made its way to Europe and caused their economy to go into a recession. The “Greek Crisis” was used in many examples by both US presidential candidates. Whoever won the election, whether it be Obama or Mitt Romney, US economic policy would have a direct effect on the people of Europe. A decision on the Greek Bailout proposal was even postponed because of the US Presidential Election. It was just an interesting position for me to be in because these topics about the world and specifically the Greek economy were being thrown around in debates and talked about daily on CNN, all while I’m actually witnessing them. I saw them first hand in Athens and how the financial crisis was effecting not only the country but everyone’s daily life. There were dozens of stores closing their doors. People were losing their homes and jobs. Policeman dressed in riot gear holding automatic weapons were stationed on every corner, trying to disrupt the protests. People could barely afford their everyday essentials.
Obviously Barack Obama ended up winning the election for his second term in office, which was another historical and celebrated event. But for me, the 2012 US election was a different experience and gave me a different perspective from what I would have had if I had been home watching instead. Actually getting the opportunity to witness these events first-hand was definitely a humbling experience for me and gave me a new appreciation for a lot of things in my life.
As many of you know, the 2016 US President Election concluded last week, and Donald Trump is positioned to be the next President of the United States of America. This election was arguably the most conversional election in US history. The international media coverage was at an all-time high, with Clinton and Trump definitely giving them plenty of headlines and things to write about. Russia, where I currently play, was constantly involved, as US and Russia are political rivals. The majority of the people in Russia were Pro-Trump, with hopes that a Trump win would improve Russian and US relations and lead to lifts of sanctions that have hurt the Russian economy.
As I mentioned before, I was asked by a Russian News station to offer my opinion about the election in an interview. While I had no problem giving the interview, I secretly felt the people wouldn’t be interested in knowing who I was voting for. This was actually my first election voting since playing overseas. Not that I didn’t want too in the past, but I just thought the absentee voting process was more difficult than it actually is. I think this is the main reason why many overseas players don’t actually vote. I voted for Hilary Clinton mainly because of her experience in office as a politician and also because I just recently had a daughter. I thought about how significant it would be for her to have a female as president and for her to have that to aspire to. I also didn’t agree with Trump’s campaign. I felt like it was built more on hate and would create more division among the people in our country. When Donald Trump was announced president, even though Russia was pro-Trump, many people were surprised he won, especially in our team locker room. Our team is composed of players and coaches from all over Europe. Even the Americans cover many states in the US.
The next couple of days after the election, the majority of our conversations in the locker room were about the results. It was interesting to see how athletics and political issues are mixed together and become the topic of conversation in an athletic locker room filled with people from different parts of the world. And given Trump’s definition of what “locker room talk” is, the irony of the situation was thick.
Before I concluded this entry, over the past week I have read many different stories and reports about thoughts and fears people have as we enter into the next four years with President Trump in office. I think as people, it is not about living in fear or uncertainty. I feel like “we the people” must determine our own outcomes in the future. We determine how we are going to live and how we all chose to move forward. My journey in basketball has afforded me many opportunities to experience new countries, new cultures, and new people. Being a foreigner playing in foreign countries, it’s easy to point out the obvious differences we all share. Over my past nine years of living in Europe, some of the greatest memories I’ve experience in my lifetime have occurred with people that don’t share the same language, race, religion or beliefs as me. My hoop journey has taught me to live with an open mind and that there is nothing positive that comes from the division of people. I think that is the most important thing for people to understand, no matter what the future holds. It is on us to decide how we are going to live and how we chose to treat others.
Thank you for reading and allowing me to share my hoop journey.