PORTLAND, Ore. — The Portland Trail Blazers announced on Sunday that the franchise had hired former NBA player Chauncey Billups. The 17-year veteran was a five-time all-star and NBA Finals MVP after winning a championship while playing for the Detroit Pistons.
This is Billups' first head coaching job.
"It was not at all surprising that this was Neil Olshey's choice from the beginning," said Sean Highkin, an NBA reporter for Bleacher Report. "Obviously they went through their process, they interviewed a couple of candidates, Becky Hammon got a lot of attention, Mike D'Antoni as well, but if it was Neil Olshey's call, it was always going to be Chauncey Billups."
Olshey and Billups have history together. Billups played for the Los Angeles Clippers while Olshey was in charge in the front office.
When the Blazers announced the Billups hiring, fans reacted swiftly. There were the usual congratulations and welcome coach-type responses on the team's Twitter thread, but a vast majority seemed to disapprove of the hire due to a 1997 rape allegation.
"I did not expect them to hire someone like that," said Blazers fan and sexual assault survivor Ashlee Yuille.
The negative fan reaction stems from the sexual assault allegation against Billups. In 1997, an unidentified woman accused Billups and other NBA players of rape while he was a rookie playing for the Boston Celtics. Multiple reports state that Billups denied any non-consensual sex between the two and said any sexual interaction they did have was consensual.
Billups was never charged in the case. The Washington Post reports the two sides settled out of court.
"I'm not happy, I think it's a slap in the face to women," Yuille said, "I think it's a slap in the face to survivors."
Yuille was not the only woman or fan to come forward with concerns. Gang-rape survivor and activist Brenda Tracy voiced her disappointment on Twitter to her nearly 27,000 followers.
Sportswriter Dia Miller wrote an op-ed for "Blazer's Edge." She began a Twitter thread, before the Billups hire was announced, about Jason Kidd being hired as the Mavericks' head coach. Kidd was arrested in 2001 for domestic abuse and pleaded guilty.
As an abuse survivor, Miller wrote about her experience and how it affected her life. Then the Billups news arrived. She wrote, in part:
While there are differences between the allegations and the outcome of Kidd’s case and Billups’ case, the feelings surrounding them are similar — and both are problematic and triggering for those who have dealt with the sensitive issues of abuse, domestic violence and rape.
There were hundreds of tweets denouncing Billups as the Portland hire. But not all the ire was directed at the new head coach, some people were upset with Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard.
On Sunday, Yahoo Sports NBA reporter Chris Haynes reported that the backlash about the coaching hire and concerns about the front office's ability to build a championship contender around him could push Lillard to leave Portland.
"Lillard has remained loyal to Portland in large part due to the tremendous fan base," Haynes wrote. "But over the last few days, he’s seen some of those same fans attacking him on social media for a pending coaching hire he played no part in consummating, sources said."
"When you see somebody elevated like that, it tells you that it doesn't matter," Yuille said, speaking of the Billups hire. "It tells you it doesn't matter if you get raped, it doesn't matter you were sexually assaulted, they're going to move on with their lives and people are going to accept them."
Yuille, Tracy and Miller were not the only women to speak out publicly.
Another five other women wrote in a separate article for "Blazers Edge" their feelings about the hire and many more took to social media to be heard.
The Blazers have made no public comment about the backlash and have scheduled a news conference for Tuesday at 12 p.m. to introduce Billups as their next head coach.