The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight

Political Geography Lesson 101

April 17, 2011

In my American Foreign Policy class, I typically try to find some time to engage students about Puerto Rico. After all, most of them never have cause to think about Puerto Rico’s quasi-colonial status in the US geostrategic orbit. Some Puerto Rican nationalists seek freedom from US domination, but even progressive activist American students interested in global affairs tend to overlook the plight of Puerto Rico in favor of other concerns.

Apparently, beyond my students, more people in Louisville are now going to learn a little something about Puerto Rico’s legacy. Cardinal basketball coach Rick Pitino agreed late last year to coach the Puerto Rican national team in this summer’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament — and in the 2012 London Olympic Games if the team qualifies.

However, Pitino apparently had multiple motives in making this deal. He thought that his Louisville Cardinal basketball team would travel to Puerto Rico, hold practices, and then play against the local “national” team.

The NCAA says no. Once every four years, college basketball teams are able to conduct extra (10, apparently) practices and play additional exhibition games if they travel to foreign lands to play local teams. The college team members get to see a bit of the world and the team benefits from some additional early preparation for the upcoming season.

So what is preventing Pitino from taking his team on the road?

Simple, right? The NCAA pointed out that Puerto Rico is part of the United States and is thus not foreign.

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Rodger A. Payne is a Professor of Political Science at the University of Louisville. He serves on the University’s Sustainability Council and was a co-founder of the Peace, Conflict, and Social Justice program. He is the author of dozens of journal articles and book chapters and coauthor, with Nayef Samhat, of Democratizing Global Politics: Discourse Norms, International Regimes, and Political Community (SUNY, 2004). He is currently working on two major projects, one exploring the role of narratives in international politics and the other examining the implications of America First foreign policy.