When Athletic’s Jason Quick Asked Trail Blazers president of basketball operations Neil Olshey earlier this month about how a 1997 rape allegation would affect the team’s focus on head coach candidate Chauncey Billups, Olshey responded, “I’m not commenting. neither discussing anything, nor speculating, about our candidates until this search is completed. “
It turns out that Olshey didn’t want to talk long after the search was over, either.
Portland introduced Billups as its next head coach on Tuesday, and a good chunk of the Press conference set about addressing (and not addressing) the details of the incident from more than two decades ago. In November 1997, Billups, then a rookie for the Celtics, was at a comedy club with teammates Ron Mercer and Antoine Walker. An anonymous woman alleged that, after leaving the club, Billups and Mercer took her to Walker’s condo and performed multiple “unwanted” sexual acts with her. Billups claimed that any sexual act between him and the woman was consensual and took place in his car, not in Walker’s condo. He never faced criminal charges and settled a civil lawsuit filed by the woman.
Olshey told reporters Tuesday that the team understood the initial reaction and concerns once reports surfaced last week revealing that Billups would be accepting the job offer. He said the Trail Blazers took the allegations “very seriously” and treated them with “the seriousness they deserve.”
“Although other NBA organizations, business partners, television networks, and regional networks have enthusiastically offered Chauncey high-profile positions in their organizations in the past and present, we wanted to make sure we had our own full process because some Things are just more important than basketball, “Olshey said. “With the support of Chauncey, your encouragement, we not only conducted our traditional background check after being offered the position, but also commissioned an independent investigation into the incident in question in 1997.
“The findings of that incident corroborated Chauncey’s recollection of the events that nothing non-consensual happened. We support Chauncey, everyone in the organization, and we believe that he is the right choice to be our head coach and the right choice. to be the kind of ambassador to the Portland community that everyone here has grown accustomed to. “
After Olshey spoke, Billups offered his thoughts on the incident as part of his opening statement:
“Not a day goes by that I don’t think about how every decision we make can have a profound impact on a person’s life. I learned at a very young age as a player, not just as a player, but as a young man.” , a young adult, that every decision, every decision has consequences. And that led to some really, really healthy, but difficult conversations that I had to have with my wife, who was my girlfriend at the time in 1997, and my daughters about what really happened and what they may have to read about. me in the news and in the media. But this experience has shaped my life in many different ways. My decision making, obviously, who I allow to be in my life, the friendships and relationships I have and how I do them. It has impacted every decision I make. It really has. It has shaped me in incredible ways. So I know how important it really is to have the right support system around you, particularly during tough times. It is something that I have tried to instill in all the players that I have played with throughout my career, just by sharing some of my experiences and things, that maybe it will help them along the way at some point. But really, really hope that I can bring leadership and knowledge to our guys, who are young and take on a lot of responsibility like me at the time, but being able to support them and guide them through situations is something that I’m going to take as a responsibility. And I am grateful and happy to do so because today, today is a great day for me and my family. Really is. I mean, this is my dream job. We knew we would have to tackle this, but this is my dream job. This is one of the best days of my life. It is a great day for my family. My youngest daughter just turned 15 yesterday and shares a birthday with my mother. So this is an amazing birthday present for you to come here and celebrate. So I want to thank you again, Neil. [Trail Blazers chair Jody] Allen, [Trail Blazers vice chair] Bert [Kolde], for having that faith in me, and I’m looking forward to getting to work. “
Chauncey Billups was asked by @jwquick to elaborate on the 1997 sexual assault charge and how the charge shaped him in incredible ways.
Trail Blazers PR cut it.
– Evan Schreiber (@SchreiberEvan) June 29, 2021
It seemed like both Billups and Olshey would be willing to tackle a difficult topic head-on, but neither of them offered many answers when pressed for more details.
Olshey stated that the Trail Blazers did “everything in our power to investigate that incident” and found nothing to “disqualify [Billups] of employment. “However, when Sean Highkin from Bleacher Report About which group the organization hired to conduct an independent investigation and what that investigation entailed, Olshey declined to share details.
“That’s property, Sean,” Olshey said. “So you will have to take our word for it that we hired an experienced company that conducted research that gave us the results that we already discussed.”
When Quick asked Billups how the incident had shaped him in “unbelievable ways,” the moderator of the press conference interrupted Billups before he could speak.
“Jason, we appreciate your question. We have addressed this,” said the moderator. “Has been asked and answered, very happy to move on to the next question here.”
Despite what the Portland public relations department may tell you, the key questions were not addressed, not even closely.
The Trail Blazers may well have hired an outside group to get as much information as possible about the woman’s allegations. But does the organization really deserve the benefit of the doubt if Olshey essentially said “Just trust me” when you are presented with a simple question?
And if the Trail Blazers were aware of concerns about hiring Billups, why wouldn’t they let the man himself answer them? Why didn’t Billups tell the moderator that he understood the question and, as one of the faces of the franchise, needed to be honest and open about the incident?
Billups, Olshey and the Trail Blazers knew that Portland fans wanted answers about this process. Instead, they have only left them more questions.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.