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Managing a Team with Conflicting Political Views – Harvard Business Review

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Politics around the world seem to be getting more and more divisive, and it’s impossible for the topic not to enter into our everyday conversations — including those that happen at work. When people on your team have differing views, those conversations can often get tense.

As a manager, what should you do? Should you ban political talk? What sort of ground rules can you lay down for these conversations? And how can you make sure you don’t harbor grudges against colleagues who don’t share your beliefs?

What the Experts Say

In a typical election years, managing a team with opposing political views is not easy or straightforward. But this polarized, pandemic-weary period has made the task even more complicated, says Tina Opie, associate professor in the management division at Babson College. In the U.S., the high-stakes presidential race, combined with the Covid-19 health emergency and continued social unrest over racial injustice, is “affecting employees as people, and it’s also affecting how they show up at work,” she says.

Even the most dedicated workers may find it difficult to compartmentalize their jobs from what’s happening in the political arena. “It’s on their minds, and since people spend the majority of their waking hours with their colleagues,” it’s inevitable that it will seep into their everyday conversations, Opie says.

Your challenge as a manager is to make sure that as passions run high and viewpoints clash, the workplace remains respectful and productive, says Emily Gregory, a vice president at VitalSmarts, the leadership training company. “A manager’s job is to create an environment where people feel safe to contribute their ideas and experiences,” she says. Here is some advice on how to do that.

Set an example.

Leading a team of people with dissimilar political stripes requires a “robust understanding and appreciation of different perspectives,” says Opie. In that way, it’s similar to managing a team comprised of employees from different cultures, races, genders, and backgrounds. Party allegiance is another element of diversity. A certain degree of conflict may be unavoidable, but it doesn’t have to be uncivilized. You set the right tone and tenor for how your team members relate to one another.

Gregory recommends laying the groundwork during meetings by modeling inclusivity, encouraging divergent views, demonstrating respect for others, and showing a willingness to challenge your own assumptions — not just on political topics but about anything on which the team disagrees. Acknowledge the taxing political environment and appeal to your team members’ compassion. Remind them that even if “someone on the team is voting differently” from them, “they can still care for and deeply respect that person,” says Gregory.

Don’t ban political talk.

It may be tempting to make your workplace a politics-free zone in the interest of team cohesion and unity, but at a time when nearly 60% of American employees say they have engaged in political discussions at work, banning political talk is impractical and counterproductive, according to Gregory. “Putting down barriers about what people can and can’t say hurts team culture more than it builds it,” she says. “Topics shouldn’t be off-limits.”

Prohibiting political conversation could also backfire, says Opie. “Some people already feel they are rendered invisible because of what’s happening” on the national stage, and if you, the manager, make certain topics off limits, it could be viewed as sanctioning ignorance and even aggression. So many of today’s big issues concern social justice, equality, and “basic human rights — which are larger than politics.”

Don’t force it.

Of course, not everyone will be interested in having political discussions. Talking about politics or certain politicians “could be a trigger for some colleagues,” says Opie. Make clear that these conversations should only happen between team members who are willing and eager to participate, and no one should be dragged into the discussion, even if they were willing to talk about it previously. These interactions require curiosity and humility — and some days for whatever reason, some people might not be able to summon the interest and restraint, says Gregory. Make sure employees know they can delay the conversation indefinitely, too.

Establish rules of engagement.

Even with you modeling the right behavior, your team may not be skilled at having these types of conversations. “It isn’t your job to teach your team members about politics, but it is your job to teach them how to talk about tough issues,” says Gregory. Even in a poisonous political atmosphere, she believes it’s possible for people from opposite sides of the spectrum to have “positive, productive, and relationship-enhancing conversations.” Some ground rules are necessary, says Opie. “You don’t want employees to feel unsafe discussing certain topics.” As the manager you need to:

  • Emphasize respect. “In functioning teams, there’s a baseline level of respect, but in high-charged conversations, people can sometimes lose sight of that,” says Gregory. As the manager, be proactive in maintaining courteous and considerate interactions, says Opie. Don’t tolerate name calling or interruptions. Keep an eye on flickering tempers. And be prepared to act if conversations cross the line between healthy debate to bitter acrimony.
  • Promote self-reflection. Many discussions about political issues can go wrong because “we don’t bother trying to understand each other,” says Gregory. “We end up being more interested in proving the other person wrong than listening.” As the team leader, help your team members move past this inclination, says Opie. Inspire them to seek common ground. “Ask, ‘What do you find attractive about the other side’s position or argument? And what concerns you about your argument?’” Your aim, she says, is to “try to find some wiggle room.”
  • Seek to understand. “Our political values are shaped by our life experiences,” says Gregory. In order for these conversations to be as constructive as possible, you and your team members must “seek to understand others’ experiences and what led them to their beliefs,” she says. Encourage vulnerability by asking your colleagues to “humanize the people they disagree with.” These conversations can sometimes be messy and uncomfortable, but they also often result in moments of enlightenment. 

Call out inappropriate comments.

One of the biggest challenges arises when someone makes an insensitive remark or says something antithetical to the values of your team culture and organization, says Opie. Whatever you do, don’t ignore it. As the leader, “speak up and take a stand,” she says. Gregory concurs. You need to “signal to the group that the comment was inappropriate,” and follow up individually with the person who said it so you don’t give tacit permission for people to speak that way. While it may sound harsh, it’s important you make clear that what they said was offensive and hurtful. Gregory suggests talking to the employee in private and saying something like, “Our organization values diversity and inclusion, and we are going to promote and develop people in alignment with those values. Your comments [about a certain political topic] makes me question whether you have the competencies needed for growth in this organization.”

Talk one on one.

Managers also need to be thoughtful about how the volatile political climate is affecting their employees — particularly on teams where political allegiances vary. The Covid era has made work a lonely place, says Opie. And if you’re in the political minority, the experience is all the more isolating. “If your colleague is feeling upset about the [decision by a grand jury not to charge any police officers with killing Breonna Taylor] and no one brings it up, she might feel ignored. She might wonder, ‘Does anyone care? Do they understand?’ As a manager, you need to bridge that gap,” she says. Focus on connecting with and caring for your employees. Opie suggests you ask, “How can I help you feel heard?” Your goal is to reach out and demonstrate that you “recognize your employees as human beings.”

Foster open-mindedness in your team…

“We are living in self-reinforcing echo chambers,” says Gregory, where we often imagine that others see the world precisely as we do. As a result, many of us make incorrect assumptions about others’ political leanings. The risk is that we end up alienating people because they hold a different view. You need to nurture open-mindedness and urge your team not to jump to conclusions. Remind colleagues that working side-by-side with someone who sees things differently can often be a boon to personal growth. “When we start to disengage with people — when we say, ‘I choose not to have relationships with people who believe X’ — we forego the opportunity to learn about how other people think and to influence them,” says Gregory.

… and hold yourself to the same standard.

Talking about your political views with a team member is complicated by the power dynamic: You’re their boss. Opie recommends “treading carefully.” In the case where a direct report doesn’t share your political inclinations, you mustn’t abuse your position by holding their views against them even on a subconscious level. “You don’t want them to feel that they’re going to be negatively evaluated” due to your different stances, she says. Try to keep an open mind, adds Gregory. “Acknowledge that other people can have different viewpoints” and still be decent human beings, she says. “If you can’t see shades of gray, you’re going to have a hard time being a manager.”

Seek outside advice.

It’s not easy to “develop and maintain a cohesive workplace” amidst a hyper-partisan political atmosphere, says Opie. There’s no shame in asking for help. She recommends “connecting with other leaders and managers to learn about how they’re handling these heated situations.” They may offer advice, insight, and ideas that hadn’t occurred to you. Even after Nov. 3, the challenges of running a team with divergent views are likely to remain. “Regardless of who wins, organizations need to think about how they are proactively developing guidelines and discussions for how employees debrief” and process the election, Opie says. “In this charged climate, it will be necessary.”

Principles to Remember

Do

  • Be a good role model. Embrace inclusivity, demonstrate respect for divergent views, and be willing to challenge your assumptions.
  • Encourage your team members to seek to understand others’ experiences and what lead them to their political beliefs.
  • Tread carefully with direct reports whose politics differ from yours. You don’t want them to feel that they’re going to be negatively evaluated due to your differing stances.

Don’t

  • Ban political conversations. It’s impractical and counterproductive.
  • Shy away from calling out inappropriate remarks. Otherwise you have given tacit permission for people to speak in insensitive ways.
  • Lose sight of how this politically turbulent period is affecting your employees as people. Focus on connection. Ask, how can I help you feel heard?

Advice in Practice

Case Study #1: Establish ground rules for discussion; be open to others’ perspectives.

Over the course of her 25-year career, Susy Dunn has managed a number of teams that had divergent political views. For the most part, her employees have learned to agree to disagree.

“In the end, it’s all about handling conflict with respect and empathy,” says Susy, the chief people officer & chief of staff at Zapproved, which makes software for corporate legal departments. “It’s about how you step outside yourself to think about others.”

A recent experience stays with her. In 2018, Susy’s team — which is in charge of the company’s diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts — organized an event on racism and classism, at which Ijeoma Oluo, the author of the book, So, You Want to Talk about Race, spoke to employees. Many workers were enthralled and energized by the book’s ideas; they began sharing articles on white privilege and organizing discussion groups.

This year, as the Black Lives Matter movement and issues surrounding systemic racism became a focal point in the national dialogue, internal conversations around privilege started again. Some colleagues bristled. “Some stepped forward and said they felt uncomfortable and excluded,” says Susy. “They said they were being made to feel ashamed because they were white.”

Together with the company’s CEO, Susy met with employees to listen to their perspectives. “Our purpose was to bring people together and to create a safe space to have a difficult conversation.”

Susy’s team laid out the ground rules in line with the company’s values: Assume good intent, listen with empathy and curiosity, show respect, and be thoughtful. If things got heated, they would pause and regroup for another time.

Employees told personal stories about their lives and explained their perspectives. People were open and honest.

When it came time for the CEO and Susy to speak, their message was clear and unapologetic: “If we are going to be asked to prioritize between the comfort of the dominant group over the justice of a marginalized group, we will select the justice of the marginalized group.”

It was an “aha moment” for everyone, she says. “People got it.”

But Susy also says she recognizes that those who felt uncomfortable had a point, too. “They said they wanted to tune out politics and focus on their work,” she says. “We realize that people need to be able to opt in to certain conversations.”

To that end, they created Slack channels dedicated to diversity and equity content. But employees who don’t want to be a part of the dialogue, doing have to join in.

Susy says she is proud of how the team came together. “It was a tough but constructive conversation.”

Case Study #2: Check in with employees one on one and don’t make assumptions about how they lean.

Aimee Pedretti, a senior manager at Mammoth HR, vividly recalls how the results of the 2016 presidential election played out in her office.

“The morning after, you could feel the tension,” she says. “Some people were upset and crying, and there were others who, even if they were not expressing jubilation, it was clear they were satisfied with the outcome.”

For Aimee, the experience was eye-opening. While she hadn’t necessarily talked politics with each and every one of her colleagues, she had assumed that most people at her company, headquartered in Portland, OR, held similar political values. “I realized the importance of not making assumptions about people’s opinions,” she says. “Not everyone shared the same political beliefs.”

She remembers taking solace from the company’s leadership. “Things were heated, and emotions were running high — similar to what’s happening today,” she says. “When I think back on those days, I remember messaging from our CEO. He acknowledged that it was pivotal moment for all Americans. It was comforting to feel that management cared about how the election was affecting us.”

The CEO also reminded the team of its company values regarding equality and inclusion. “That really helped level-set us and bring us back to reality: Even if we didn’t all see eye-to-eye on politics, we were all committed to the same purpose and organizational principles.”

Today, amidst another turbulent political season, that lesson has served her well. Aimee says she is “focused on her team’s wellbeing,” and regularly checks in with employees one-on-one to make sure they’re coping alright.

“Things are so divisive right now outside of work,” she says. “As a leader, it’s important to acknowledge there is a lot of fear and distress about the election regardless of which political party you belong to.”

She says she’s also more sensitive about the way she engages with colleagues in conversations about politics — and no longer makes assumptions about how they lean. She tries to lead by example: She demonstrates respect for others’ opinions and an openness to different perspectives. “Managers need to make sure their people feel safe and respected,” she says. “No one should have to stifle who they are.”

Recently, Aimee gathered that she holds very different views from some of her colleagues. “In these cases, it’s important to separate the person from their political positions,” she says. “Managers need to be transparent about how they’re assigning work, how they’re promoting people, and how they’re treating people.”

Sometimes, she says, it’s easier to engage on neutral topics like pets and hobbies. “There’s no need to force a political conversation.”

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America's Covid politics, historical revisionism and why Cold War conformity isn't the answer – NBC News

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Americans are losing their jobs, getting sick and dying because of inaction by the federal government and by their governors and because of resistance — sometimes violent resistance — to the few public health measures that are in effect.

How did we end up with a new member of Congress, Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, who used her first moments in Washington to criticize masks? Why has the federal government given up on a national response to the Covid-19 pandemic? Why are people threatening violence against governors who propose even modestly restrictive public health measures?

Why are we being so reckless about something so important?

The short answer is that public health has become politicized, and political conflict makes us stupid.

The short answer is that public health has become politicized, and political conflict makes us stupid. Most people know almost nothing about public policy, and when we make political arguments, we reason in ways that would be embarrassing in other contexts. Being smart offers little protection, and it can even make us more vulnerable to distorted political reasoning.

In 2013, Yale researcher Dan Kahan worried that politics could quickly pollute the science communication environment about vaccines. Even though beliefs about vaccine science and immunization policy were not then strongly associated with political identities, he was concerned that this could change quickly. Something similar had happened before: In the 1990s, beliefs about climate change were not significantly politically polarized; that consensus evaporated in the first decade of the 2000s.

In 2020, it has become clear that Kahan was right to be worried. Americans’ willingness to accept vaccines and their feelings about vaccine laws are increasingly split along party lines. The same is true for views about Covid-19 lockdowns, mask mandates and social distancing. The new Covid-19 vaccine could be political dynamite.

Dec. 3, 202004:38

A common explanation for some people’s resistance to public health measures is that previous generations were more virtuous than we are. You might point to the example of the school-age Polio Pioneers who participated in vaccine testing and to Jonas Salk’s (supposedly) altruistic refusal to patent the polio vaccine.

But it is a self-congratulatory fiction to attribute the public health compliance of earlier generations to a now-lost commitment to fairness and solidarity. A truer story would focus on the fact that earlier Americans had more in common and were more obedient to authority figures.

Consider that, until the 1970s and the 1980s, patients rarely provided informed consent to medical procedures. While the medical abuses of the Holocaust illustrated that patients and research subjects should have the right to make their own decisions, American doctors largely rejected the 1947 Nuremberg Code’s call for informed consent and continued to practice more paternalistic medicine — they would continue to treat patients over their objections or otherwise disregard patient preferences — until the law forced their hand.

America also used to be a more collectivist place, at least in much of the post-World War II era. Most people were bound by a shared civil religion of patriotism (including a Cold War hatred of communism), and their private religious beliefs were more often connected to churches that occupied centrist positions in political life. Among white Americans, there was greater economic equality, more optimism about improving standards of living and greater trust in social institutions (including government, medicine and science). Racism and, more importantly, the influence of white supremacy — in education, housing and the workplace, among other things — shaped a shared experience for white Americans and imposed a similarly common oppressive way of life on nonwhite Americans.

Cold War conformity and Jim Crow terrorism are not good models for contemporary social cooperation. We applaud the accomplishments of the civil rights and patients’ rights movements. We are glad to live in more pluralistic and diverse communities.

However, the loss of common identities and shared political aspirations has led directly to rising levels of political polarization around policies that used to be less controversial.

Common enemies often generate a sense of shared purpose. Perhaps the Covid-19 pandemic will become so severe that our mutual vulnerability will cultivate recommitment to public health measures. For example, some Republican governors have recently reversed themselves and embraced mask mandates. But even if this trend continues, it is not likely to be a stable basis for an ongoing public health consensus after the pandemic.

It seems more likely that opposition to a foreign enemy — say, China — could cultivate longer-lasting common political commitments in a diverse America. Political leaders of both parties support America’s imperial projects, and most citizens seem open to bipartisanship in the name of resisting (supposed) existential threats to the country. This kind of shared political identity could be more stable, but only if the struggle lasted a long time and only if it did not result in catastrophic wars. But this is a dangerous and unethical basis for political consensus.

We hope, instead, that Democrats and Republicans can find common cause in conceptions of freedom that express our shared values. We all ought to be free from restrictions on what we say and believe, and we have good reasons to protect valued spheres of civic life from the corrupting influence of politics and the unwelcome oversight of government. We all also ought to be free to live in healthy and peaceful communities, participate in well-functioning economic systems and have access to targeted social welfare programs. Whether America can re-create stable public health governance depends on whether Americans can promote these kinds of freedoms in our ongoing work of living together.

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All Santa Wants for Christmas Is to Stay Out of Politics – The New York Times

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All Santa Wants for Christmas Is to Stay Out of Politics

After a brush with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, professional Santa Clauses are just trying to get through this holiday season safely.

Credit…Julien Sage for The New York Times
  • Dec. 4, 2020, 5:00 a.m. ET

Ric Erwin is one of thousands of men for whom Santa Claus is both a sacred idea and a seasonal occupation. Earlier this year, he was looking forward to donning his red velvet suit and hat this December, just as he has each winter for the last decade.

But the pandemic has thrown a wrench in the usual Christmas shows and shopping mall photo ops. And Mr. Erwin, 62, who is the chairman of the board of the Fraternal Order of Real Bearded Santas — a national association for men who grow and maintain their own beards to play Santa Claus at holiday events — has found himself advocating for 500 professionals to safely support their work while virus cases are surging.

In September, Mr. Erwin, who lives in Hemet, Calif., testified virtually before the Centers for Disease Control’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. He noted that the production and distribution of an H1N1 vaccine in 2009 allowed Santa Claus performers to save Christmas that year. He hoped the C.D.C. could similarly expedite a vaccine in time for this holiday season.

After his testimony, Mr. Erwin received several phone calls, voicemails and emails from Michael R. Caputo, the assistant secretary for public affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services, who hoped to broker a deal with the Santas. Mr. Erwin recalled Mr. Caputo telling him that the White House was interested in having Santas participate in a 35-city rollout campaign for Operation Warp Speed, the federal effort to develop a coronavirus vaccine. In exchange, he promised the Santas access to a vaccine by mid-October.

A Santa meet-and-greet at Bass Pro Shops in Bridgeport, Conn.
Credit…Seth Wenig/Associated Press

“That sounded like a great deal to us,” Mr. Erwin said. “Within 24 hours we had over 100 volunteers. The response was overwhelming.”

Mr. Caputo told Mr. Erwin he couldn’t wait to tell President Trump that the Santas were onboard with the plan. Then, Mr. Erwin said, Mr. Caputo, the C.D.C. and the H.H.S. ghosted him.

Mr. Erwin realized Mr. Caputo was never going to call him back when The Wall Street Journal published an article in late October stating that the campaign, which was meant to include not only Santa players but also celebrities, had been scrapped. (In a statement to The New York Times, an H.H.S. spokeswoman reiterated: “This collaboration will not be happening.”)

“We saw the handwriting on the wall and we knew there was not going to be a collaboration at that point, so if we were going to save Christmas this year it was just going to be the Clauses,” Mr. Erwin said.

In addition to stoking some false hope, his negotiations with the federal government drew attention to the myriad societies Santa Claus performers belong to today (though the word “performers” is scorned by those who take a method approach to the role). There are regional groups (like the Lone Star Santas and the New England Santa Society), as well as national and international ones.

For the most part, these organizations try to stay out of politics, activism and other kinds of campaigning. So some Santas were annoyed.

Credit…Houston Cofield for The New York Times
Credit…Julien Sage for The New York Times

“First of all, Santa lives in the North Pole — he doesn’t live in the United States,” said Stephen Arnold, 70, a Memphis resident and president of the International Brotherhood of Real Bearded Santas (I.B.R.B.S.), a trade group with more than 2,000 members. “He might have an interest in seeing that the United States is a calm and safe place for him to visit and deliver Christmas presents, but as a Santa Claus, you shouldn’t have a political posture.”

Mr. Arnold added that his understanding was that only four or five people would end up eligible for an early shot of the vaccine according to the offer Mr. Caputo made to Mr. Erwin.

To be fair, Mr. Arnold and Mr. Erwin have some history. The Fraternal Order of Real Bearded Santas (F.O.R.B.S.) emerged out of the dissolution more than a decade ago of the Amalgamated Order of Real Bearded Santas (A.O.R.B.S.), which was wrapped in scandal at the time. (“If you Google ‘Santa Wars,’ you’ll find articles on it,” Mr. Arnold said.) Today, F.O.R.B.S. is much smaller than I.B.R.B.S., which also includes Mrs. Clauses, and there are members of each group who will not forget the Santa tension of years past.

Personal matters aside, Mr. Arnold said his resistance to take part in the government campaign revolved largely around a desire to remain apolitical.

“Most of our members were reluctant to consider being first in line because they felt that the whole thing on vaccines was being politically manipulated,” he said. “We work very hard on not being political. We do not allow any political posts or anything on our Facebook group pages.”

“If somebody posts something that’s even slightly interpreted as a political statement, it’s gone instantly,” he continued. “It’s just deleted.”

Should a member like to make a statement out-of-character, that’s fine, Mr. Arnold said. “We encourage all of our Santas who want to make political posts to create a separate page where they don’t wear any red, and don’t indicate they’re Santa Claus or have Santa in their names,” he said.

Credit…Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

At this point, according to C.D.C. recommendations, Santa players shouldn’t expect to be vaccinated before Christmas. So, what does that mean for this holiday season?

“Generally speaking, within the Santa community, we are being as cautious as possible,” Mr. Arnold said. “There’s a small contingency of people who have laughed it off and said ‘I’m going to go on normally, I won’t be performing with a mask.’” Most members of Santa organizations, however, are considered high-risk coronavirus candidates: They are retirees in their 70s and 80s and many have underlying health conditions, Mr. Erwin said.

“There isn’t a group of people that are more compromised than the Christmas Committee,” Mr. Arnold said. “A lot of us are old and have diabetes. Most of us have a heart problem, most of us are obese. We check every box.”

While many Santa-related innovations have come out of 2020 — holiday-themed masks, plexiglass and acrylic walls that can be made to look invisible in photos, video calls, drive-through greetings — Mr. Erwin is most enticed by the idea of placing Santa in a vinyl dome.

The dome provides physical separation, but it can also be explained with a clever story for the children to understand, Mr. Erwin said.

“If parents don’t want to explain virus transmission, they can say Santa got trapped in a snow globe by an elf magician and you have to come visit him at the globe,” he said.

But Mr. Erwin won’t be scheduling any in-person visits this year. His father-in-law suffered a stroke in April and was hospitalized for 30 days before he died; none of his family members were able to visit because of the pandemic. Mr. Erwin told his wife and his mother-in-law, who makes Santa costumes and goes by Mother Claus, that he would not take any chances with the virus.

“I don’t even care about giving up my season,” Mr. Erwin said. “I’m thinking about the 150,000 plus people that did not have to die.” He blames the rising toll on the current administration and plans to deliver fitting gifts to its members this Christmas.

“As a Santa, I am neutral and love everybody, but as a citizen I have to say something,” Mr. Erwin said, adding that he would not be giving politicians coal. “They are getting dryer lint, at best.”

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Can Rajinikanth’s entry into politics diminish the hold of Dravidian parties in Tamil Nadu? – Yahoo Canada Sports

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CBC

How France became a pipeline for Canadian women’s basketball talent

It all began with Lizanne Murphy. The Montrealer was pondering her basketball future in the wake of the 2012 London Olympics. In the years prior, she’d bounced around pro leagues in Eastern Europe and suffered a major knee injury that wasn’t managed properly, perhaps due to language barriers. On the brink of retirement, Murphy, fluent in English and French, was urged by her agent to consider playing in France. She would be the only Canadian woman in the league, and had played 12 French league games the previous season. “I signed a contract to play in Aix-en-Provence, which is like the beach on the Mediterranean Sea. It was incredible. … And then I just said to all my teammates, like, ‘Guys, you have to come here. This is amazing,” Murphy said. For Murphy, the beach location was a big draw — if your basketball career is going to come to an end away from the rest of your national team, there might as well be good weather. But she wasn’t alone for long. Murphy’s team needed a point guard, so she called up Hamilton, Ont., native Shona Thorburn, who quickly joined the coastal squad. The two soon learned why the French league now doubles as a Canadian pipeline: intense competition, smart coaching and high-IQ players, guaranteed contracts and French language and culture. Team Canada veteran Kim Gaucher joined Murphy and Thorburn in France soon after, with Gaucher crediting Murphy as a trailblazer for Canadians in the country. “We worked really hard because Canadians work really hard. So all of a sudden Canadian players had this amazing reputation and then every time they recruited more Canadians. The next year there was like two more Canadians and then they played really well,” Murphy said. “So this is like this untapped talent in France that were great teammates, great people, and really the best players in the league.” Today, 14 Canadians play across three leagues in France, including five in the top Ligue Féminine de Basketball. Team-oriented basketball The steady increase over the last decade isn’t just a sign of Canadians wanting to play together, either. In France, just two non-European and two non-French European players are permitted per team. Bridget Carleton, a playoff starter for the WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx, recently began her first season in France. She said it was her top option after choosing not to return to Australia for her second overseas campaign. “I was mostly drawn to France just because of the history that Canadians have in this league, in the country. And obviously, talking with my national team teammates Kim, Murph, Shona, Nayo [Raincock-Ekunwe]. … They’ve been here for so long, they’ve continued careers here, played here for multiple years, so it shows how much they do appreciate it and enjoy it here,” Carleton said. The 24-year-old now starts for Landerneau Bretagne, where she’s earning more responsibility on the court than she had as a fifth option, at best, for the Lynx. The collection of talent in France comes with more legitimate basketball than you might see in other European leagues. Coaches instill structured on-court systems that mimic international play. In the past, it would be similar to Canada’s disciplined style of play; now, Canada prefers run-and-gun transition basketball. Still, both systems demand quick, smart decision-making from players.  “Canadians are really talented offensive players, really talented individual players, but are also great teammates. And you don’t always see that with everyone and I think that’s why the French League, the French citizens love the Canadian players,” Murphy said. Canadians, like Carleton, are unlikely to dominate the ball and consistently lead their team in shot attempts. Guaranteed contracts But Gaucher said that style of play is sometimes the only way to survive outside of France in Europe. “There are some countries where if you’re an import, if you’re an American, if you don’t score 30 points a night — and that can be on 35 shots — they don’t really care. And then you’re going to get cut, whereas [in France] there’s a lot of movement, there’s a lot of screening. They want complete players.” It’s easier to prioritize team over individual when your contract is legitimately guaranteed. While “guarantee” language is the norm across Europe, it’s common for players not to be paid on time or at all, or cut at a moment’s notice outside of France. Gaucher, who plays for Ligue B Mondeville, says she was still paid after the league stopped due to the pandemic in March. To contrast, fellow Canadians Ruth Hamblin, Miah-Marie Langlois and Jamie Scott were told by their Russian club in March they’d be breaking contract if they went back to Canada — even after the prime minister mandated a return. Murphy also spent time in Argentina, Poland, Lithuania and Slovakia before France. “In North America, a contract really matters. But in Eastern Europe, your money is always late. Sometimes you’re not paid. It’s not always guaranteed. And that happened to me a lot. But in France, being a professional athlete is treated like a career, you have the same rights and respect in terms of the government protection as a teacher [or] a lawyer,” she said. Canadian camaraderie Beyond basketball and money, Canadian camaraderie was quickly established and grows with each additional national team player that arrives. Carleton got her first taste when she faced off against Canadians Michelle Plouffe and Raincock-Ekunwe, who play for Lyon, in November. Murphy, now retired, would spend the night with her fellow Canadians after travelling for a game before taking the train home the following day. There was even talk of holding a Canadian training camp in France last month before the pandemic scuttled potential plans. Murphy said she’s proud to have played her part in fostering Canadian talent and growing the game. Without a pro league at home, France has become the next best thing. And when the European season typically demands lots of lonely nights in foreign countries, it’s nice to know there’s a support system nearby. “It’s not the same desperation and overwhelmed fatigue [as it is outside of France]. You have a good balance there and you feel like you have a taste of home. … That family connection, I think, is almost the competitive advantage.”

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