CNN host Carol Costello and ex-NFL punter Chris Kluwe tag-teamed Duke head basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski in a recent segment, demanding to know why he was so silent about Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act when he has a national platform to denounce it as discriminatory.
Krzyzewski, whose team is due for a crucial NCAA matchup this weekend, refused to opine on the new law.
“I’m only going to talk about my team and basketball in the Final Four. That’s what I’m going to talk about,” Krzyzewski, also known as Coach K, told a news conference. “Just like when we get to Indiana. I’m not gonna talk about social issues there or poverty or anything else. I’m just gonna talk about this Duke basketball team.”
Watch the CNN segment:
Meanwhile, Kluwe, an outspoken advocate for same-sex marriage, said athletes are generally exempt from the burden of speaking out on political hot-button issues – but not so superstar coaches.
Kluwe said Krzyzewski had a responsibility to speak on the law’s impact to society.
“I think a lot of coaches and players, for that matter, are worried that they will say the wrong thing and that they will bring undue media attention down on themselves,” Kluew said, in the CNN segment. “And so they just think it’s better to say nothing at all.”
He also pointed to the media seminars the NFL offered, where it was suggested, “Hey, if you don’t want to talk about an issue … don’t talk about it,” he said.
But the standard is different for coaches and for players who have reached superstar status, Kluwe went on.
“If you are a superstar athlete or a superstar head coach, it is your obligation to be aware of these issues because you will be asked about them, and you do have a platform to talk about these things, and you should be knowledgeable about it because that is the world you live in,” Kluwe said. “That is your society.”
Radio host Rush Limbaugh blasted CNN for its treatment of Coach K, calling the network’s tactic “the new statism.”
“Because he didn’t fall in line with other sports figures condemning the law, CNN does a whole segment attacking him for not saying anything,” Limbaugh said. “So this is the double way that they pressure you. If you say the unacceptable thing, then they destroy you. If you don’t say what they want you to say because you saying it would add ammo to their point of view – and, of course, Coach K, one of the most highly respected basketball coaches ever, the anti-Indiana forces would love to have Coach K on their side.
“He didn’t come down on any side and so he has to be taken out for that reason alone. The intimidation in stories like this and the veiled defamation, by the way, cuts both ways. If you don’t say what they want you to say – and to them, you matter – they’re gonna come after you. If you say what they don’t want to hear, they’ll come after you for that, too.”
Limbaugh concluded: “For crying out loud, Duke’s on the verge of going all the way to the NCAA championship. That’s what Krzyzewski’s thinking about. They play this weekend and this is the last thing probably on his mind.
“What head coaches do in any sport is take the heat off the players. They try to take as much media attention off the players and onto themselves as they can, for obvious reasons, to depressurize the players, to keep them focused, any number of things. Krzyzewski knew if he weighed in on this, didn’t matter how, didn’t matter what, that would be the only story about Duke and being in the championship in the tournament. What Krzyzewski said would supersede everything. He simply didn’t want Duke or his team or his players or himself anywhere in the middle of this story, one way or the other.
Listen to Rush Limbaugh’s comments on this issue:
“But you see, it doesn’t work that way because Carol Costello representing the forces of doom here, the Stalinist-type forces of doom demanding that Coach K speak up and demanding that he say what they want him to say. They’re going after him practically the same as if he had spoken up in favor of the law. But he didn’t. He didn’t say a word about it, and, in fact, said he didn’t want to address it.”
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