Hunger strikes are a radical form of protest and a dangerous act that can endanger anyone who practices it. In 1993, an NBA player most known for being swapped with Scottie Pippen on draft night went on a hunger strike. Read on to learn about his story.
Olden Polynice went on hunger strike in 1993
1993 was not a good year for Haitians. There were sufferings, injustices, and overall poor quality of life that forced people to risk their lives and try and reach the U.S., hoping for a fresh start. Many of them were captured on the seas and detained in a camp in Guantanamo. However, things took a turn for the worse when HIV broke out in the camp, with ten people being positive. The U.S. government barred them from entering the U.S., resulting in a statement and further suffering. Born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Olden Polynice knew he had to do something for his compatriots.
In the middle of the NBA season, the 7-foot, 200-pound center decided to go on a hunger strike. But his version was not the zero food intake route as Polynice still had to play, which required consuming food for energy. Polynice ate a little to show his solidarity to fellow Haitians who opted to go on hunger strike as a form of protest. Olden started protesting in January 1993 but ended it after just ten days because his body couldn’t stand it anymore. He collapsed in a bathroom and woke up in a hospital. Admitting he did not think it thoroughly before going on strike, Polynice consumed his first proper meal the next day.
Polynice became an icon as the first “woke” athlete at that time but did not receive the same adoration as other protesting athletes in recent years. His actions did not create a multi-sport reaction like Colin Kaepernick’s U.S. national anthem protest, but it’s probably because he was not a star player in his era. Think of Enes Kanter and his protests today, which have stirred enough people to make some news headlines but failed to create monumental changes.
Polynice may have made history as the first to go on hunger strike in any professional sports midseason. Still, his name would always be connected to Scottie Pippen and Chicago Bulls.
The player Chicago Bulls traded to get Scottie Pippen
Olden played in the NBA for 15 seasons, but he would be most remembered for being on the other end of a deal involving Chicago Bulls and Scottie Pippen. In the 1987 draft, Olden was traded to the Seattle SuperSonics for Scottie Pippen, and the rest is history. Pip became a Hall of Famer, a 6-time NBA champion, and one of the greatest to ever play. Meanwhile, Polynice was an NBA journeyman and protested for his countrymen.
Did it ever bother him that Chicago came out as the winner in the deal? In an interview with [AUDIO] Scoop B Radio Overtime f/ Olden Polynice [Frm. NBA Center] (2016)
">Scoop B. Robinson in 2016, the Tahitian revealed his honest answer.
“At the end of the day, we both did the same thing, played in the NBA. I thought I had a very good career, not to the extent of Scottie’s, but I was happy when I walked away from the game. I don’t get caught up in all that crap, that’s for other people and when people wake up thinking about me or talking trash about me your life is meaningless.”
Spoken like a true woke individual. Even if Olden Polynice’s hunger strike did not solve the problems between the Tahitians and the U.S. government, it showed anyone that athletes could be more than just athletes. After all, it’s not about the result but the message the protest wanted to convey.