The Charlotte Hornets killed my fandom by standing with Miles Bridges

Warning: This story contains detailed descriptions of domestic violence which may be triggering for some readers.

On June 28, 2022, Miles Bridges made a choice. During an argument, the Hornets forward wrapped his hands around the throat of his ex and strangled her to the point muscles in her neck were torn. Bridges broke her wrist, her nose, fractured her eardrum, and gave her a concussion severe enough that she lost consciousness. This all occurred in front of two young children, scared and confused why daddy was hurting mommy.

When police and EMS arrived at the scene Bridges was gone, leaving his children to witness their mother be loaded into an ambulance and taken to the hospital for medical treatment. Bridges knew he would be arrested, and bounced before it could happen. The LAPD issued a warrant for his arrest.

There is no need to append this account with “allegedly” or “reportedly.” This is what happened. A video released by the victim showed the couple’s young son recount what he saw: That daddy was choking mommy, that Bridges threw her phone out the window, and the boy began hitting his father and telling him to be nice to his mother. Bridges was charged the felony domestic violence and child abuse, the latter as part of California’s laws on spousal abuse when it occurs in front of a child. In an effort to avoid jail time Bridges accepted a plea deal and pled no contest.

Bridges was given a three year probation, ordered to stay at least 100 feet from his ex for a period of 10 years, undergo 52 weeks of domestic violence counseling, 52 weeks of parenting classes, and be routinely tested for narcotics.

Basketball is the furthest thing from importance when something like this happens, but we’re discussing it now because of Bridges’ on-court ability and how critical his play is to the Charlotte Hornets. A struggling franchise routinely bereft of talent was finally putting it together around a nucleus of LaMelo Ball and Bridges, who led the team to a 43-39 record in 2021-22, showing glimmers of hope that something could be built upon.

Charlotte was intent on keeping the duo together, and prepared to extend a max-offer to make it happen. Averaging 20.2 points and seven rebounds per game, it seemed Bridges was on the verge of becoming an All-Star, and at the very least the Hornets believed if they couldn’t keep Bridges, perhaps they could trade him for a bevy of assets to help the team. The arrest stopped all chances of that happening in their tracks, and Hornets were left in limbo — neither willing to commit to a long-term deal, nor able to trade him with his NBA status still up in the air.

Ultimately the Hornets signed him to a qualifying offer that kicked the can down the road to make this a future decision.

The Hornets’ 2022-23 season was profoundly disappointing. The team was terrible, plummeting from 4th in the NBA in scoring to 27th as a desperate coaching search took Charlotte back to Steve Clifford, who struggled in his first stint as head coach and struggled once more. The biggest difference was the lack of scoring from Bridges, and when paired with injuries to Ball, the team limped to a 27-55 record.

When Bridges signed his qualifying offer this off-season and was given a 30 game suspension by the NBA (shorted to 10 games for missing the 22-23 season) the desperate organization needed Bridges if they wanted to win, and looked to get back on track. Their hope was that the charges would be a thing of the past. It was still gross, and numerous Hornets fans wanted to see Bridges gone all together — but the front office banked on the concept that winning would wash away the anger, and their star player learned his lesson.

In the Spring of 1991 I made a choice. It was the first year I can remember really caring about the NBA beyond a few key players. Michael Jordan and the Bulls were everyone’s team in Australia by default, but with my father living in North Carolina the Hornets were decidedly my team — and damn if it didn’t help that they were the coolest thing in sports.

I’ve loved them ever since. Every step of the way. From the joy of seeing Grandmama and Zo electrify the league, to crying when they both left in the mid-nineties. Seeing this team rise from the ashes with Glen Rice, to the tragedy of 2000 when Bobby Phills was killed while street racing David Wesley.

I remember the Charlotte Coliseum rocking in 1998 in a loss to the Spurs so hilarious is still defies belief. For one bizarre night Matt Geiger absolutely dominated David Robinson in the paint and almost led the Hornets to victory. It was the first time I saw an NBA game live, and I refused to take off my Glen Rice jersey — sleeping in it that night.

The pain of seeing my beloved basketball team leave for New Orleans in 2002 was enough to turn me off the NBA all together, but thankfully I found my love again with the Bobcats. It was with that hapless group of hopeless losers I found basketball love again, and it’s what started my career writing about sports. The very first pieces I wrote for SB Nation were on the former Bobcats blog “Rufus on Fire,” pieces now lost to time.

Being a Hornets fan is a treatise in vacillating hope and deflation. A rollercoaster with no ending, but a ride you can’t get off. Try as you might to quit, the power of the teal and purple will pull you back in — and even when the team is bad, at least they’re fun.

On October 14, 2023 the Hornets made a choice. A new warrant had been issued for Bridges’ arrest, this time for violating parole and allegedly violating the protective order to keep him away from his ex.

A police report claims that on October 6th Bridges and his new girlfriend confronted his ex and their children in her car at their home. Bridges allegedly threw pool balls at the car, smashing the windows with his children inside, before kicking the car along with his new girlfriend while screaming that he was going to get custody of the kids and ensure she was left penniless.

A few days later he was practicing with the team as if nothing had happened. The only words from the Hornets came in the form of a brief, boilerplate statement saying they were “looking into it,” but otherwise didn’t address the issue.

It’s impossible to quantify the damage this man has already done not just to his ex, but his children. They are too young to process what they’ve witnessed, but it will change the trajectory of their lives. The trauma of witnessing your mother be brutally assaulted at the hands of your father simply doesn’t wash away, the feeling of helplessness as you’re smacking a man four-times your size and begging him to “be nice.” All we can do is hope they’re receiving, and will continue to receive the therapy they require so they don’t grow up to be like their father in his attitudes towards women.

The Hornets are still silent. They don’t care that a majority of fans want Bridges gone, no matter how much it hurts the team. They don’t care that keeping the forward and acting like nothing happened alienates women and sets an abhorrent example for “wins over everything.” They don’t care that it’s even questionable whether they actually need Bridges now with the emergence of P.J. Washington, Mark Williams, and the hope that Brandon Miller can be the future at wing. They care about right now, damn how it makes everyone else feel.

Today I made a choice not to follow the Hornets anymore. It’s one of the most painful cognizant decisions I’ve made as a sports fan. I can’t begin to explain how excited I was to see this team in 2023-24 with Melo back healthy, the dimes he’d dish to Williams in the paint, and the hopes of seeing Miller become the wing shooter the team has been so sorely missing.

But I can’t do it. I can’t support this. As a husband to my wife, a father to a daughter, the brother to a sister — hell, just as a human being, I cannot sit back and watch this franchise put its head in the sand while an abuser takes jump shots in practice and if given the opportunity to joke around like everything is hunky dory.

They’re choosing to ignore it all and compete, I’m choosing not to ignore it and stop watching. At least not until this team makes an effort to show they care about this situation at all. I don’t care that waiving Miles Bridges will hurt the team on the court, I don’t care that they won’t get draft assets to help the roster. What is the point of supporting an organization that makes you feel gross by its associations?

I don’t matter, I’m a drop in the bucket. Winning will generate thousands of fans to offset the loss of little old me — but it’s disgusting that we’re even at this point. Screw Miles Bridges, screw those who continue to turn a blind eye, and screw the Hornets for making anyone choose between supporting this team and cheering for an abuser.

In the end we all have a choice to make.

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top