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By Brian Wilmer, Senior Staff Writer
Women's rights? Only if you're the right woman
It seems like just yesterday.
In a way, I suppose it was.
Last May, former Vanderbilt University point guard Ashley McElhiney was hired to coach the men's expansion ABA team here in Nashville. The hiring made national news, and, for the briefest of moments, an ostensible publicity stunt had worked. Never mind the fact that McElhiney is a brilliant basketball mind, and it was less about her than it was about getting the owner's name out in the public eye... it happened.
Last night, McElhiney was the victim of another publicity stunt.
Former Vanderbilt basketball standout Matt Freije, twice-released by NBA clubs this year (Heat and Hornets) who had just stated in the newspaper a couple of days previous that he would "not be playing for the Rhythm" abruptly changed course and found himself on the Rhythm bench. He scored 30 in his first game with the team, and commented after the game about how he loved the atmosphere, despite the fact that just above 900 fans were in attendance to see one of their former favorite sons.
Let's fast-forward to last night's contest. Freije played again only this time, he was apparently not supposed to play. You see, it turns out Rhythm owner Sally Anthony only paid to have Freije there, not to play. Anthony's explanation behind the signing was one of the most ridiculous things to come from an owner's mouth since, well, pretty much anything George Steinbrenner says.
"My co-owner (Tony Bucher) and my GM (Daniel Bucher) decided to pay Matt Freije to have the name there. "He came in for two games. Our players are struggling financially," said Anthony. Freije was paid $10,000 for his two-game stint.
Let me get this straight. Your players are struggling financially, so you pay a guy that much to come in for a two-game appearance and you don't even want him to play.
Let's cut the charade. This has nothing to do with your players struggling financially, or anything else. This was another publicity stunt to get the name of a megalomaniacal small-time owner in the paper.
If you don't believe the megalomaniacal comment, take a look at her website, the team's website, or the piece on what led to McElhiney's firing. Also, fans who purchased tickets in advance to either of this weekend's contests got an autographed copy of her CD. It's more about Sally Anthony the owner than anything involving the on-court product even to the detriment of Anthony's "message".
You see, Anthony is very much pro-women's rights. She comments incessantly on her webpage and in various other places about equality and how women can do things just as well as men can which, on its face, is a very great and much-needed message. However, Anthony failed herself, her message, and the last vestige of the "fans" interested in her product with her actions last night.
Anthony, as previously mentioned, did not agree with the fact that her $10,000 "investment" was on the floor despite her wishes, so she decided to make her displeasure known not just to McElhiney, but to everyone in attendance. It got so bad that she had to be restrained and removed by security. She tried to fire McElhiney during the game, but since that attempt failed, she waited until the game was over and gave her the boot. She also got into a scuffle with the brother of one of the players on the team, where she shoved him, flipped him off, and cursed at him.
The cherry on top of the sundae came when Anthony tried to turn the team against the coach and threatened to fold the team if they should side with her in the decision to play Freije. Folding the team might have been the best move for all involved.
Everyone lost on this night despite the 110-109 score in favor of the Rhythm. McElhiney lost because she is too bright of a mind and too good of a person and coach to suffer this public embarrassment at the hands of an egomaniac. The team lost because they didn't have the guts to stand up and defend their coach. And, perhaps most glaringly, Anthony lost, because she is now not only known as a joke here in Nashville, she will soon be known as a joke around the country.
One of Anthony's quotes last night perhaps sums up what she is indeed all about.
"The thing with us has always been women can do it just as much as men can."
If by "do it", you mean act like an idiot and make a general ass of yourself in front of many, you're correct, Sally.
It's just a shame that such a person as Ashley McElhiney had to be sacrificed for you to prove your point.
File last modified May 15, 2011
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