Patriotism jumps the shark?

Free agency comes to the Olympics. This has probably been happening for a long time, but two recent articles on espn.com told of athletes acquiring citizenship in other nations for the sole purpose of playing on their Olympic team.

  • Becky Hammon , basketball player who has no Russian family connection whatsoever, signs on with a Russian club team to play professionally and with the side benefit of a Russian passport so she can play on their Olympic team. (Because she’s not good enough to make the American team)
  • Kathryn Bertine, has an ongoing series in ESPN magazine in which she searches for a sport in which she can make the Olympics, and then after settling on cycling, ends up sending emails to scores of countries in the hopes one will give her a passport before finally being taken in by St Kitts and Nevin. She actually makes a pretty good case for what she’s doing in the eight part of her series: “If being an Olympian means being part of something internationally positive, does it really matter what country I represent?”

I’m not sure what the takeaway from all this is. You decide.

This did teach me more about the ins and outs of dual citizenship though. As I’m both British and American at this point, my understanding was that America would frown upon going out of your way to acquire more passports (instead of getting one because you’re Jewish or have an Irish grandmother) but it turns out the law says doing so only revokes your US citizenship if you do so with the intent of renouncing one’s US citizenship, and the presumption is that one does not intend that unless otherwise stated. So there you have it, you’ve got the go ahead to stock up on passports just in case the dollar finally crashes.

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