U.S. basketball star unlikely to be granted Latvian citizenship

Take note – story published 4 years and 11 months ago

Granting Latvia citizenship to US basketball player Shey Peddy would not be the right decision to make, as it could affect home athletes' motivation to strive for high achievements, said the chairman of the Sports Subcommittee in the Saeima Education, Culture and Science Committee Sandis Riekstiņš (New Conservative Party) on Latvian Radio June 7.

The Saeima Citizenship, Migration and Social Cohesion Committee decided not to raise the issue of granting citizenship to Peddy at the Saeima meeting. Riekstiņš posed several arguments about why the act of granting advance citizenship for special merit to athletes might be undesirable.

On June 4, the best players in the Latvian Youth Basketball League visited Saeima. Riekstiņš held that the naturalization of foreign athletes might reduce the prospects for homegrown talents to develop.

“We said good job, practice, but when the time to play comes, it is likely we'll take somebody else instead,” Riekstņš explained.

Peddy was included among the Latvia State Union candidates in the hopes that she will be granted citizenship before June 27, when the final of the European Championship, which is to take place partly in Rīga, gets underway. Mārtiņš Zībarts, the chief coach of the team, also called Peddy a much needed member of the team.

Previously, Peddy played as part of the “TTT Rīga” team for two seasons.

However, it is not unknown for Saeima to grant citizenship to sportsmen and sportswomen, even when they have little connection to the country. As previously reported by LSM, on February 1, 2018, the Saeima supported the decision to grant Latvian citizenship to Oleksandr Pinchuk, a promising modern pentathlete from Ukraine, “for special merit in favor of Latvia.”

And in 2017, world-famous dancer and actor Mikhail Baryshnikov became a Latvian citizen after the Saeima voted to grant him a passport on April 27. Baryshnikov did have a clear connection to the country, having been born in Rīga.

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