In Russia, legislators are already reacting, badly, to yesterday’s announcement that the country’s richest man, billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, is buying a controlling share of the New Jersey Nets–a move that would also help fund the Atlantic Yards development project.
“I can’t consider this action as anything other than unpatriotic,” said Aslambek Aslakhanov, a member of the sports committee of Russia’s upper chamber (called the Federation Council), according to the Russian news agency RIA Novosti. “We also have talented children here, but sports isn’t being developed. They’re not trying in order for us to return to our former sports ranking of best in the world.”
“I don’t deny that Mikhail Prokhorov has put money into developing sports in Russia, but I would have liked all the means he considered possible to have gone to specifically supporting sports in the fatherland,” said Viktor Ozerov, another member of the Council.
The backlash helps explain why Mr. Prokhorov cast his bid in very pro-fatherland terms when he explained it on his Live Journal blog Tuesday. Mr. Prokhorov wrote (via Google Translator):
Our group participated in such a complex project clearly interested only in the case of the use of technology for the systematic development of NBA basketball in Russia.
He also listed as one of his “Qualitative Criteria” that “Russia will receive an equal place in the elite world of basketball,” along with some kind of free-flowing exchange by which Russian players and coaches could come train in the NBA.
The Kremlin has yet to weigh in, but I for one hope this leads to some kind of international conference. Beer summit in Yalta, anyone?