The Olympic Games, scheduled for July and August in Tokyo, were called off this year due to COVID-19 fears. With no games expected until sometime next year, the time-out provides a chance to restore a hard-fought American win.
In the 1972 Munich Olympics, the United States fielded a basketball team of Mike Bantam, Jim Brewer, Tom Burleson, Doug Collins, Kenny Davis, James Forbes, Tom Henderson, Bobby Jones, Dwight Jones, Kevin Joyce, Tom McMillen and Ed Ratleff. Every player was a collegian on the youngest U.S. basketball squad ever. In the gold medal game, the Americans faced a more experienced team from the Soviet Union.
The Soviets led most of the way, but in the closing seconds, with Team USA behind 49-48, Illinois State’s Doug Collins picked off a pass and drove for a layup. Soviet player Zurab Sakandelidze knocked Collins hard into the basket stanchion and the American crashed to the floor. In one of the great clutch plays of all time, Collins sank both free throws, putting the USA up 50-49. The stunned Soviets failed to score during the final three seconds. The United States had won the game and maintained their Olympic record.
As the Americans celebrated their victory, Renato William Jones, secretary-general of the International Basketball Federation (FIBA), came out of the stands and ordered the officials to put three seconds back on the clock. Jones, a friend of the Soviet Union, had no authority to make such a demand but the Olympic officials put time back on the clock not once, not twice, but three times.
On the third try, the Soviets scored a basket and the Olympic officials gave them the gold medal. FIBA boss Jones wanted the Soviet team to win, which he confirmed with his post-game statement: “The Americans have to learn how to lose, even when they think they are right.”
The Americans decided not to show up for the silver because they won the gold fair and square. They were right, and there is no other side to this argument. Incredibly enough, U.S. officials let the atrocity stand, and that surrender continued through the decades.
President Obama was reported to be quite a hoopster in his youth, but in 2012 and 2016 the president turned down wide-open shots for perhaps the greatest put-back in history. By this time, the case for the restoration of the Americans’ gold medals was stronger.
In January 2017, while president-elect Donald Trump was preparing to take office, the International Olympic Committee found that in 2008 Jamaican sprinter Nesta Carter, a teammate of Usain Bolt, had violated anti-doping rules. Therefore, the entire Jamaican 4×100-meter relay team would have to return their gold medals, which now belong to the team from Trinidad.
President Trump and U.S. Olympic officials should demand that the International Olympic Committee strip the 1972 gold medals from the Soviet team, which lost the game. In a public ceremony, the IOC should give the gold medals to the American team, which won the game. At this writing, they are all alive except Dwight Jones, who passed away in 2016.
If the IOC resists, President Trump should raise the prospect of U.S. participation in future Olympics. Recall that President Jimmy Carter held out the United States from the 1980 Olympics in Moscow.
In 2016, Trump proclaimed, “we are going to start winning again.” Restoring an American victory would boost morale for greater victories to come. Those 1972 Olympics, meanwhile, linger on in more sinister ways.
In Munich, the Palestinian terrorist group Black September kidnapped and murdered 11 Israeli athletes. The lead terrorist was Muhammad Yusuf al-Najjar and his grandson, Ammar Campa-Najjar, is now running for Congress in California’s 50th district. Campa-Najjar’s father is Yasser Najjar, a Palestinian Authority official. How fugitive Yasser Najjar arrived in the United States, if he ever did, has not been documented, like much of Campa-Najjar’s narrative.
He comes billed as a “Mexican-Palestinian American” and in 2018 he lost to Duncan Hunter, who dropped out over charges of misusing campaign funds. Yasser Najjar’s son Ammar now faces former Representative Darrell Issa, who in recent polls leads 47-43.
Issa could win on November 3 but fraudulent mail-in ballots could give the victory to the Democrat. That would be like the cancellation of the U.S. basketball victory in 1972. In November, Americans will see if what goes around comes around.