Andrew Bogut on Vegas: 'Holy s---, what is going on here?'

ByOhm Youngmisuk ESPN logo
Friday, October 6, 2017

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Andrew Bogut saw the video and heard the sounds of gunfire being unleashed on concertgoers in Las Vegas this week, and it hit him hard.

The Los Angeles Lakers center began to picture himself there amid all the innocent people scattering for their lives. And having just become a father, Bogut couldn't help but wonder what if he had his son with him.

"I've got a kid now, 10 months old," Bogut said in an interview with ESPN. "Once you have a kid, it is even more scary. You start thinking, holy s---, imagine if I was at a concert in Vegas in three years' time with a 3-year-old running around and some guy is taking people out? When innocent people get involved, that is when it is really a scary time.

"It is a bad time for Las Vegas," Bogut added. "I am fond of Las Vegas. I go and play poker there a lot. I know where the shooting was -- a good friend of mine works at the MGM. When that was all happening, it was like, 'Holy s---, what is going on here?'"

Bogut and the Lakers visit Las Vegas this weekend to play the Sacramento Kings in a preseason game on Sunday. The Lakers, who won the summer league at Las Vegas this summer and typically draw a large contingent of fans whenever they play in the city, had discussions about playing there after Stephen Paddock fired into a crowd of 22,000 people attending a music festival, killing 58 and injuring at least 489.

"I stuck my head into practice to see what the guys were doing and [Lakers head coach Luke Walton] had brought them all in to center court and was talking to them about what happened in Las Vegas," Lakers controlling owner Jeanie Buss said this week at the espnW Women and Sports Summit. "And he was talking to them about the emotions that people were feeling and encouraging them to share how they were feeling."

This is the second time since training camp began that the Lakers' coaching staff met with players to discuss serious matters going on in the world off the court. The team decided earlier in camp to lock arms during the anthem as a way to show players' concerns over equality and police brutality, and to show "there are issues in this country, and it is a chance for us to raise awareness and still make it a talking point," Walton said.

Bogut, who is Croatian and grew up in Australia, has been wondering what is going on in the world these days. He's increasingly disturbed by what he sees not just with acts of terror around the globe but the divisive racial and political climate here in the United States.

"There's people dying in countries, there's people who don't have water, and we are bickering about political sides?" Bogut said. "OK, there are some issues with what is going on right now with the presidency. There is no doubt about it. But obviously, you look at what has happened in Puerto Rico, there are earthquakes all over the world, there are bigger issues that we need to take care of as people of the world rather than focus on this stupid political s---."

Bogut is a working immigrant here in the United States and is often reminded by hecklers in arenas and on social media that he is "a foreigner." But the No. 1 overall pick from the 2005 draft knows what can happen when politics and prejudice tear apart a country.

Bogut's parents, Michael and Anne, immigrated to Australia from the former Yugoslavia in the 1970s. Bogut, born and raised in Melbourne, has family and friends in Croatia and visits every summer he can. But tensions remain strained between Croatians and Serbians after Croatia's war for independence from the Serb-run Yugoslavia in the early 1990s.

"My background is Croatian," Bogut said. "Hypothetically, I am supposed to hate Serbians. Our war was [nearly] 30 years ago. It was while I was alive. But if I meet a Serbian person who is nice to me, I shake his hand, have a conversation, he's a nice guy or a nice woman, that is all I judge people on. I am supposed to hate you because of this or I am in this group or you are that -- I don't.

"We have a platform," Bogut said of athletes. "I speak out about [issues] all the time. I get into some trouble for it, so be it. I am going to stick to my principles. I know the day I retire, that I was never in anybody's pocket. That I was never saying things to keep a sponsor. I have always said what I honestly thought and my whole thing is just treat people accordingly. When I meet somebody, if they are a nice person to me, wherever they are from, I don't care.

"The whole racism thing, the whole sexism thing, you want to stamp it out as much as you can. There is never a place for that. If you can judge people based on their merit when you meet them, I think that's all you can do, that is all I can do. I meet somebody, they are a nice person, I like them, I'll hang out with them again. Oh they are not a nice person, I don't like them, I don't want to hang. But I am not going to judge them on what they are wearing or what they look like. You leave that out the window and move on."

Still, Bogut has heard from plenty of people to stay in his lane.

"It is hard to bring things up like that because being a foreigner in America, people will tell me you are not American, you don't know what it's like," Bogut said. "If I come out and say anything about it, I am a foreigner and I get told just go back to where you came from, just like anybody else. I hear that coming out of the tunnel sometimes when I get into games. 'Go back to Australia!' and all that kind of stuff, but it is kind of brushed under because people are like, 'You are all right, you are a white guy.' I am not trying to portray myself as a victim, don't get me wrong. I don't want any sympathy or anything like that."

A major source of frustration for Bogut is the partisan divide. As he has gotten older, the 32-year-old entering his 13th season has begun to follow politics and issues more closely here in the U.S. And he can't believe some of the things he sees and hears.

"You see the shooting in Las Vegas, and in 12 hours you got Republicans and Democrats already making political statements," Bogut said. "It absolutely boggles my mind the disrespect that people have with 58 people who have died, 500 injured and straight away you have people trying to get political points on both sides. [It's] Hillary's fault or Trump's fault. Let's respect the people that just passed away and respect their families. There is a time and place for the political stuff.

"It is the climate that we are in, everything is so political right now. It is just a joke. Like people losing family members because one voted for this party. It is just mind-boggling to me. I have never seen the world [like this]. I grew up in the '80s, I have never seen this climate. Not just in America, everywhere. You either agree with my opinion or you are wrong. Or I hate you or I want you dead. It is like, really? Both political sides are full of idiots. Both political sides are full of some good policy. I really get frustrated with it."

Bogut is often asked, naturally, where he falls in line with his thinking -- left, right or down the middle?

"That's the thing, people want so bad to have you pick a side," Bogut said. "Are you a Democrat or a Republican? Are you right wing or left wing? I'm nothing. I look at every policy individually. What are the Democrats doing? That's a good thing, that is a bad thing. What are Republicans doing? I am not putting myself in any basket, no one is putting me in any basket.

"That frustrates people because they want to put you in a basket so they can judge you upon it. I get that all the time on social media that people think I am this or that. I don't care because I know my principles. My party would be common sense, that is what my party would be if I was a politician. I just try to stay away from it now because the climate right now is just a joke."

This weekend, Bogut returns to one of his favorite places to visit. And Las Vegas will remind him how precious life is, how he wants to treat people daily and what he hopes the world will be like for his son in the future.

"There's always going to be something," Bogut said. "There is always going to be something politically, there is always going to be a war, we know that from history, there is always a war going on somewhere in the world. It would be nice if people just got along and treated people the way they want to be treated.

"I haven't seen a climate like in the last decade of shootings and suicide attacks and terrorist attacks. ... You can only control how you control yourself with other people."