By Jason Cruz
Northwest Asian Weekly
Welcome to another edition of The Layup Drill. This month, Jeremy Lin joins a new team, a new MMA organization visits Seattle, and there’s a possible rugby boycott.
Lin finds another team
Jeremy Lin was a Hawk to start the season and now is a Raptor. The Taiwanese American NBA star signed with the playoff-contending Toronto Raptors after negotiating a buyout with the Atlanta Hawks. The Raptors is his 8th NBA team in his career. The Raptors are currently 2nd in the Eastern Conference standings and look to be a favorite to make it to the NBA Finals. Lin will serve as the backup point guard, coming off the bench, behind All-Star guard Kyle Lowry. Lin was averaging 10 points a game this season with the Hawks. He was coming off a torn ACL, which he suffered in the first game of the 2017-2018 season.
After a stint with the Brooklyn Nets, Lin signed with the Hawks this past offseason. The team is in the midst of rebuilding, and is currently one of the worst teams in the league.
The good news for Lin is that he is most certainly guaranteed to be playing for a contender. Lin hasn’t been in the playoffs since the 2013-2014 season with the Houston Rockets. It will be nice to see Lin back in the spotlight after a year of being out due to a knee injury and playing in relative obscurity with underperforming teams.
Eight teams in 9 years sounds like a journeyman player that barely find their way onto an NBA roster. But Lin has been a good player that has yet to find a long-term home. Whether it’s the business of basketball or not a good fit with a team, or a better opportunity with another team, Lin has not made a solid home in any NBA city. It’s clear that 30-year-old Lin is here to stay for several more years. It would be great to see him latch on with the Raptors and help them make a run for the NBA title.
ONE Championship makes U.S. appearance with stop in Seattle
On a cold, but rainless Monday afternoon in late February, Singapore-based ONE Championship MMA made its U.S. debut with a “meet and greet” at the Southwest Boys & Girls Club in White Center.
The kids had not heard of the sport of mixed martial arts, but representatives from ONE were there to explain to them. Former UFC fighter Rich Franklin is now the vice president of Asian Mixed Martial Arts for ONE Championship. Miesha Tate, the former UFC women’s bantamweight fighter, is now a brand ambassador for the company. She is from Washington state where she wrestled in high school. Arguably, Demetrious Johnson is the best MMA fighter in the world. He successfully defended his UFC Featherweight title more than any champion in the UFC. After a successful stint with the promotion, he was able to sign with ONE Championship late last year.
The Puyallup, Wash. resident will be fighting in Tokyo, Japan on March 31. In addition, Johnson will be involved in the company’s esports initiative, with a start date occurring this summer. Johnson, an avid video game player, has his own channel on Twitch, a YouTube channel for gamers, where followers interact with the former champion online and watch him play.
The three talked about their personal challenges in life and how they got to where they are today. The kids, who were just dismissed from school, were interested in a sport that most have never heard of in their lives. After the talk, the three signed autographs and took pictures with the kids.
ONE Championship holds all of its events in Asia. The company is widely popular in Asia and focuses more on the traditional martial arts, rather than the sports and entertainment that happens in the UFC. It also reports financial investments that is helping them expand by signing fighters with U.S. ties, and it announced a television deal with Turner network where fans in America can watch ONE Championship events. Chatri Sityodtong, the founder, chairman, and CEO of ONE Championship has helped build the MMA promotion into a global sports media property. A native of Thailand, he is described as a self-made entrepreneur and lifelong martial artist.
Sityodtong holds an MBA from Harvard Business School and a BA from Tufts University.
Pacific Island players considering rugby boycott
Players from the rugby-popular countries of Fiji, Samoa, and Tonga are threatening to boycott the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan. The boycott is due in part for a plan creating a 12-team “World League” in 2020, which would leave out the mentioned nations.
The Rugby World Cup is similar to the World Cup of soccer, where nations come together to play in a tournament to determine the best country in its sport and it is held every 4 years. The last tournament for rugby took place in 2015 and involved 20 countries competing over 6 weeks. 2019 will see the tournament held in Japan. Fiji, Samoa, and Tonga have qualified for the World Cup which begins this September.
The island nations have a rich tradition of the sport, which originated in England. Players from island nations play professionally across the world, including Europe and here in the United States. A contingent of Pacific Island Players’ union comprised of 600 members are in discussion on the value of a boycott.
Although not a finality, there is discussion of having the World Rugby league utilize a promotion and regulation policy, similar to that in European soccer where teams are promoted to the league or demoted based on wins and losses.
Daniel Leo, a past member of the Samoan National Rugby team and a member of the players’ union told the BBC, “The days of colonialism are long behind us, but this model that they’re proposing is more reminiscent of those days.” He’s also indicated that this move could “kill” Pacific Island rugby.
Although nothing has been confirmed, the World League will have bigger nations, such as the United States and Japan, competing and exclude smaller nations like Fiji, Samoa, and Tonga. Notably, Fiji is ranked higher in the world rankings than both the United States or Japan. This is one of the many reasons that has drawn the ire of players loyal to their home countries that play the sport. According to Leo, 20 percent of all professional rugby players are from the island nations.
While we do not hear much about rugby here in the United States, the proposed World League appears to cater to bigger nations that have fans willing to spend money on the sport. While the likes of Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, and other emerging nations might have better teams and players, the bigger nations have the money. The decision has not been made to boycott this year’s World Cup of Rugby, but it would certainly raise awareness of the issue and bad publicity for an emerging World League.
Jason can be reached at email@example.com.