Article 1 Final

The 1972 USA Olympic Basketball Team continues to refuse Silver Medal amidst
Being Robbed of the Gold 50 years ago In Munich.

Many would consider the 1972 Olympic basketball game to be the greatest
injustice in Olympic history. The match for the gold took place just about 30
years after the United States’ WW2 victory, a lot of bad blood still filled the
air between the USA and the Soviet Union in which the animosity spilled over in
this controversial game.

 “Those medals are going to be in Lausanne, Switzerland, for a thousand
years from now,” stated a former player for the 1972 USA Olympic Team. Why is
that though? What could have gone so wrong that the team still refuses to
accept its loss to the Soviets and collect their medals even 50 years
later? 

The Washington Post reported that despite everything going on at the time,
the game wasn’t expected to cause any drama. Days before the game Palestinian
militants executed 11 athletes and coaches at the Munich Olympic Village. They
also reported that Avery Brundage, International Olympic Committee president,
stated that the games must go on despite uncertainty by Team USA members. 

A win over Italy in the semi-final game gave Team USA their 63rd
consecutive win, setting them up to face the Soviets in the final for the gold
medal.

The final 6 seconds of the US-Soviet game were what made this whole
controversy. Sports Illustrated reported that Doug Collins of Team USA was
fouled hard, nearly unconscious. Down 48-49, Collins sank two free throws to
give Team USA the lead at 50-49 with just 3 seconds on the clock.

Sports Illustrated reported that an illegal timeout was taken by the Soviets
who ran on the court and demanded it from the refs. Following a missed violation,
the Soviets would get the ball and run the time out.

The game should have been over, but the refs gave the Soviets another chance
after making invalid excuses for them. Another play was made, but it was
suggested that there was a clock malfunction, so the Soviets were given yet
another chance to win. With 3 seconds remaining on the clock, the Soviets ended
up cashing in on their third chance and won the game, robbing Team USA of a gold
medal.

After protesting the outcome of the game, Team USA was outvoted 3-2 by other
communist nations in Hungary, Poland, and Cuba which was reported by the
Washington Post.

“The Americans have to learn how to lose, even when they think they are
right,” FIBA chief, Jones, stated to The Washington Post. Team USA was left
with an all or nothing acceptance for their silver medals meaning that the
whole team would have to accept them, or no one would receive anything.

After fifty years, the team still stands on their beliefs about the game
despite multiple opportunities to put it behind them and accept their medals.
As time continues to go on players on the team like Tom McMillen still hold
fears that the significance of the story is slowly being eroded by time. A
wrong never to be righted will very much soon be forgotten.

“It’s unfortunate because that’s exactly what the I.O.C. wants. Our medals
sit in Lausanne, and there are going to be fewer of us around for the 60th
anniversary. History fades into the ether,” McMillen says via New York Times.

Many of the players from Team USA remain bitter about the situation to this
day, but some have taken something positive out of the ordeal. “You know what those
Olympics did? They made me grow up. They opened my eyes,” Collins went on in an
interview years following the 1972 Olympics.

Others from the team are still having a rough time getting over being
cheated by the Soviets in the gold medal game. Jim Brewer, power forward for Team
USA, was violently injured by a Soviet player during the game and was unable to
return to the second half. Brewer expressed, “That night was the end of the
world for me. It never goes away. A lie is persistent. I was bitter for a long,
long time.”

Even Brewer, who was injured during the game and arguably feels the most
emotional attachment to the 1972 Olympics out of all his former teammates, was
able to let go of some of the resentment that he had from that game. “I came
upon some pictures of the guys on that team, and some letters from that time, I
just started crying…I finally let it go that day,” the former power forward
expressed emotionally.

The members of the 1972 Team USA still have a soft spot in their hearts for what went down that year, but all in all the players were all able to move on from the situation of some sort. To this day Team USA still won’t accept their silver medals, though. That’s something that they will never be able to sit well with.

 

https://vault.si.com/vault/1992/06/15/robbed-of-gold-medals-in-munich-the-72-us-olympic-basketball-team-will-not-betray-its-principles-for-a-few-pieces-of-silver

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/09/09/sports/olympics/usa-soviet-union-olympics-basketball.html

https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/olympics/2022/09/08/us-ussr-basketball-1972-munich-olympics/

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