Recently retired NBA center and Washington Wizards alumnus Marcin Gortat now proudly says “In God We Trust” in addition to “Za naszą i waszą wolność” (Polish for For our freedom and yours). Really!
The Polish Machine is now the Polish AMERICAN Machine! He is now an American citizen, which he announced on the April 16 episode “On the Road with Buck & Phil” podcast, hosted by former TV play-by-play announcer Steven Buckhantz and former color analyst Phil Chenier. An embed is below, but if you are unable to listen, you can click here for another link.
Gortat recently naturalized as an American citizen but still retains his Polish/European Union citizenship. One of the interesting things I took away from Gortat’s interview on the Buck & Phil podcast was that he identified himself as being very American while maintaining his Polish identity.
This is in part because he spent over a decade in the United States during his playing career and never spent more than about month and a half in Poland at a time. One time that felt interesting for him was during March 2020 when the coronavirus pandemic hit.
Since Gortat is an American now, his home here in the USA is in Florida, since he recently sold a home he owned in Arlington County, Va.
Gortat’s process of becoming an American citizen has also given him an interesting perspective on civic duty. Europeans, in particular EU and NATO members (Poland is in both), aren’t as openly supportive of their military/defense forces like the U.S. is with its military.
During his NBA career, Gortat met and/or played basketball with Polish troops who were serving in NATO forces in Iraq and Afghanistan at around the 35-38 minute mark. He became more openly supportive of Polish troops because of his time here in the States. He also noted indirectly that he received the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland by President Andrzej Duda in 2018 for his accomplishments on the basketball court and charity work.
At around the 41-46 minute mark, Gortat gave his thoughts on the political situation in the United States, including the current reckoning with racism and police brutality. Gortat started with a story that he was stopped by Secret Service Police near the White House early in his first season in Washington.
From there, Gortat addressed the national police brutality situation where he spoke about the need for all people to cooperate with law enforcement saying that “fighting cops” is not the way to go to address those issues and doesn’t think people should “play tough.” He felt that those who wanted to be “tough” could do so in other ways like helping homeless people. That said, Gortat said beforehand that current U.S. President Joe Biden has put the nation “in a better place.”
I’m not sure how current NBA players, including those on the Wizards, will consider his opinion on it (and we’ve had multiple fatal shootings involving police in the news this past week, AND the trial of Derek Chauvin, the Minneapolis police officer who suffocated George Floyd is ongoing), but it was interesting to see him be open about a hot-button topic right now.
Finally, Gortat regretted missing an opportunity to go to the White House and meet then-U.S. President Barack Obama during his time as a Wizard.
All-in-all, this was a candid and free-flowing conversation that Buckhantz and Chenier had with Gortat, who spent five years with the Washington Wizards from 2013-18.
CONGRATULATIONS ON BECOMING AN AMERICAN CITIZEN MARCIN!