Canzano: Oregon Gov. Kate Brown shoots back on basketball blockade of Portland State and University of Portland

Oregon Governor Kate Brown doubled down on her decision to shut out the men’s and women’s basketball teams at University of Portland and Portland State. She continues to refuse to grant either Division-I university the same exemption she gave to Oregon and Oregon State weeks ago.

Why?

A spokesperson for Gov. Brown’s office, said on Tuesday, “Here is where Governor Brown’s focus is: Getting kids back in schools who haven’t been in a classroom since last spring. Finding a way for families to safely visit the loved ones in long term care facilities they haven’t seen since early March. Making sure Oregonians who lost everything to wildfires have a warm place to call home before winter. Bringing case counts under control so that we can keep businesses open.”

All very important things. All deserving of focus and attention. Also, all emotionally loaded. It’s a smokescreen really. I also support kids being safely in schools and loved ones being welcome and safe in care facilities and I support wildfire recovery plans. Doing those things shouldn’t prohibit the Pilots and Vikings from being held to the same COVID-19 standards as the Ducks and Beavers.

A few thoughts:

♦ When Gov. Brown granted Oregon and OSU an exemption last month, I believe she believed she was clearing the way for the Pac-12 football programs to practice and eventually play. I’m beginning to think that her office didn’t consider that the Beavers and Ducks men’s and women’s basketball programs would seize the opportunity and start practicing under the blanket of that exemption. It’s possible our governor didn’t realize that her broad exemption technically extended to ALL intercollegiate athletics programs in Eugene and Corvallis. I also don’t blame those other programs for seeing that and slipping in under the football exemption.

♦ UP and PSU are practicing basketball. They’re running drills daily, shooting and performing “five on zero” work. It’s allowed. The exemption they’re seeking would allow them to escalate to full-contact practices. It seems to me that if the aim really is to keep people safe, the best way to do that is to grant the exemption and force UP and PSU to test its athletes daily like the two other Division I universities in our state.

♦ PSU has been quiet. The prevailing notion is that there’s some fear at Portland State that speaking out publicly against the governor’s stubborn position on this might cost the state-funded university some badly needed dollars. Stephen Percy, the PSU president, has been silent. Gagged? Or just strategically mum? Same to me. A question: Would our elected governor really get vindictive and pull state funding from PSU if it publicly cries foul here? If so, it will be noticed.

♦ The narrative on Gov. Kate Brown’s tenure is that she is only focused on what she perceives to help her politically and not what needs to be done to address an issue for everyone. I’ve watched this basketball debacle play out and I’m left thinking that the reason she cleared Oregon and OSU has more to do with the high-dollar values and political clout assigned to those two universities.

♦ Penny Knight, Phil’s wife and philanthropical co-pilot, graduated from PSU. So did their son, Travis. And Phil worked as a professor at PSU. The campus enrollment: 27,229. Maybe someone needs to inform the governor?

♦ UP and PSU are the ONLY Division I men’s and women’s basketball programs in the country that are not allowed to play. They are the outliers among 350 universities. If that doesn’t have you shook — what does?

♦ Dirty little secret, the programs at Oregon and OSU have plans to play each other in the preseason. The Ducks don’t want to travel outside the state to find a game. Neither do the Beavers. But if UP and PSU can’t practice, that’s what will happen. They’ll find colleges in Washington and other states with less strict protocols. How is that safer? Further, if the exemption doesn’t happen, UP is already exploring the notion of relocating practices across state lines. Again, how is that safer for Oregonians?

♦ The spokesperson for the governor’s office said, “Oregon set a daily case count record of 550 last week. For the time being, no further exemptions for indoor college sports—whether D1, D2, D3, or NAIA––will be considered until case counts are brought down.” OK. I’ll bite. If it’s not safe to grant further exemptions, why are OSU and Oregon being allowed to practice? Why were bowling alleys and ice skating rinks granted an exemption? It just makes no sense.

♦ I used to think that Gov. Kate Brown showing up at a Beavers or Ducks women’s basketball game was a show of support for those two universities. Also, support of women’s athletics. I loved seeing it. Now, I’m left thinking about her absence at UP and PSU basketball events.

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