• Sweden's news in English
 

Harvard athlete told he can't help Swedish kids

Published: 31 Jan 2014 07:10 GMT+01:00

Wright,a 24-year-old Virginia native who played the last season with Polish team Czarni Słupsk, returned to Sweden earlier this month to play center for the Uppsala Basketball Team. He has played with Uppsala before, but this time around the Migration Board (Migrationsverket) has decided his contract needs changing. Specifically, paragraphs stipulating that he work with school children as part of the team’s social outreach programme must be removed.

"There was no problem last year, and that’s the problem," team manager Johannes Wohlert told The Local. "He had exactly the same contract last year, and was supposed to do the same things. But this year the Migration Board asked us to take away everything that had to do with him being involved in the social project."

Schysst Framtid (Super Future), a social project created by the Uppsala Basketball team in 2003, puts professional athletes in contact with school children in the outskirts of Uppsala. The basketball players, from both the men's and women's teams, act as positive role models for the kids, talking about things like bullying and drug use but also encouraging youth to engage in sports. All players with the Uppsala team are thus contractually obligated to spend several hours a week in schools working with children. Last year, when Wright played for the team on his previous contract, migration authorities didn't react.

"This is something I did last season, so I was a bit shocked. I didn't think it was such a big deal," Wright told Sveriges Television (SVT). 

For non EU-citizens working with sports teams in Sweden, a special type of work permit applies. Athletes and coaches must engage in sports on a professional level and have a contract with an association belonging to the Swedish Sports Confederation. They must also have adequate health and accident insurance and earn a monthly salary of at least 14,300 kronor ($2,200) before taxes. If all these criteria are met, then getting the permit is usually quite simple - and approval only takes about a week, Wohlert said. But not this time.

“All of the work permits of this type that we grant are limited to work within the specified area," Migration Board spokeswoman Gunilla Wikström told Sveriges Radio (SR). "And in this case, we have determined that working with the project (Schysst Framtid) involves totally different work tasks than being an athlete.”

The Uppsala Basketball Team disagrees, publishing an op-ed earlier this week in the Expressen newspaper opposing the Migration Board's choice. The debate has since spread across to both traditional and social media sites.

“What they’re saying this time is that (Wright) can only play basketball on this permit, not do other work,” Wohlert told The Local. “We think that being in schools is part of his work and something athletes should do as role models. But the Migration Board interprets that as him doing other work than basketball, so they won’t give him a work permit unless he agrees not to do that.”

When contacted by The Local for an explanation why Wright's contract had been approved last year but not this year, Migration Board officials responded they were examining the details of the case but could not comment.

Wohlert told The Local it's unclear whether or not Wright can still participate at Uppsala's schools of his own volition as a volunteer, saying "we're not sure yet - and we're not sure they are sure either." The team hopes to engage in dialogue with the Migration Board and broaden the definition of what players are allowed to do.

“This is about a model of how we can use professional athletes out in society,” Wohlert said. “We want this to be one of the criteria for a professional player. Instead of them playing video games at home between practices, a few hours a week they are out in schools interacting with students. That’s how we want it to be.”

For now, Uppsala Basketball has removed the social project requirements from Wright's contract, and the player was granted a permit but is not active within schools - which Wohlert says is a loss for everybody.

“Keith has a major in psychology from Harvard University. He’s like the best role model ever, and he’s great with the kids,” Wohlert gushed. “That’s one of the reasons we recruited him. He’s great on-court, but he’s great off-court too."

Meanwhile the basketball player hopes to keep inspiring the kids, even if he can't work with them directly.

“There is more than one way to be a role model and help the kids,” Wright told The Local. “I can lead by example, on the street or the court. I just improvise and do what I am able to do when it comes to helping them.”

Solveig Rundquist
Follow Solveig on Twitter.

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
UN council seat focus of Löfven’s US trip
Photo: AFP

UN council seat focus of Löfven’s US trip

Sweden’s candidacy for a seat on the UN Security Council will dominate Stefan Löfven’s trip to New York and Washington, DC. While in the US, he will also meet Vice-President Joe Biden. READ  

New trial to start in 8-year-old’s death
Photo: TT

New trial to start in 8-year-old’s death

An appeal gets underway on Monday in the case of 8-year-old Yara Alnajjar, a girl from Gaza who was beaten to death in Sweden last year. A female guardian was charged with murder while the girl’s uncle received a lesser sentence. READ  

Pub shooters wore skull masks and police vests
Photo: TT

Pub shooters wore skull masks and police vests

The two men who opened fire at a Gothenburg pub on March 18 were wearing skull masks and police vests, surveillance cameras footage reveals. Two people were killed and eight injured in the incident. READ  

PM brings up death penalty on China trip
Photo: TT

PM brings up death penalty on China trip

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven broached sensitive subjects such as the death penalty and human right in a Saturday meeting with China’s President Xi Jinping. READ  

Saudi ambassador to return to Stockholm
Photo: TT

Saudi ambassador to return to Stockholm

Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Sweden will soon return to Stockholm after a diplomatic spat, Swedish officials said Saturday. But an envoy sent to Riyadh stopped short of offering the Saudis an apology. READ  

Swedish MPs meet Snowden in Moscow
Photo: TT/Right Livelihood Award Foundation

Swedish MPs meet Snowden in Moscow

Three Swedish parliamentarians met with fugitive US intelligence agent Edward Snowden at a secret location in Moscow on Friday to discuss mass surveillance. READ  

Spring budget
Petrol to cost more as Greens get their way
Social Democrat Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson and her Green Party deputy Per Bolund at a press conference on Friday. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT.

Petrol to cost more as Greens get their way

Sweden's left-wing government proposed a hike in petrol taxes on Friday, citing the drop in oil prices and pressure put on it by its coalition partner the Greens. READ  

Swedish Nobel laureate Tranströmer dies aged  83
Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/SCANPIX

Swedish Nobel laureate Tranströmer dies aged 83

UPDATED: Swedish poet and winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature Tomas Tranströmer has passed away at the age of 83, his publishers confirmed on Friday. READ  

Sweden Democrat head: 'I'm on antidepressants'
Sweden Democrat leader Jimmie Åkesson before his sick leave. Photo: Sören Andersson/TT

Sweden Democrat head: 'I'm on antidepressants'

Jimmie Åkesson, who is poised to return as leader of Sweden's nationalist party in April after months of sick leave, has revealed he is taking antidepressants for exhaustion and sleeping difficulties in an interview set to air late on Friday. READ  

Is Swedish super coach Pia Sundhage quitting?
Pia Sundhage, left, celebrating after Sweden beats Scotland in the World Cup qualifier. Photo: Adam Ihse/TT

Is Swedish super coach Pia Sundhage quitting?

Swedish football coach Pia Sundhage's contract leading the women's national team runs out next year. And she has not yet made up her mind as to whether or not she wants to stay on. “If they asked me today, I would say no,” she told The Local on Friday. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Society
How to never miss your favourite weekly features on The Local
Gallery
People-watching: March 25th
Sponsored Article
Why Stockholm is the 'Boston of Europe'
National
Which words are changing in Sweden's latest dictionary?
Sponsored Article
'Sweden must embrace openness and diversity'
Blog updates

27 March

Celebrating Three Great English Exports In 2015 (The Diplomatic Dispatch) »

"Deputy Head of Mission Aidan Liddle joins us for another guest blog today. In 2015, England..." READ »

 

27 March

Editor’s blog, March 27th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hi readers, Europe remains in shock following the Germanwings plane crash in the Alps that killed 150..." READ »

 
 
 
National
Is this house 'un-Swedish'?
National
Sweden pays tribute to victims of Germanwings Alps crash
National
Neo-Nazi activity rising in Sweden
National
How to make Swedish Waffles
Gallery
Property of the week: Torslanda - Hjuvik
National
Stray dog Arthur moves in with Swedish owners
Sponsored Article
Ten tips for succeeding as a start-up in Sweden
National
Sweden triples maximum limit at asylum centres
Gallery
People-watching: March 21st
National
Why elderly Swedes are among the world's happiest people
National
TIMELINE: Gothenburg shootings
National
Can Sweden's feminist party score success in neighbouring Norway?
National
Why Brits can't get enough of Sweden
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Sweden's solar eclipse
National
What's on in Sweden this week
Royal wedding countdown begins
National
Viking ring reveals Islamic ties
National
TIMELINE: Julian Assange sex allegations in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: March 18th
National
One in three Russian diplomats are spies, says Sweden's Security Service
National
Hitchcock opera set to hit Gothenburg stage
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Northern Lights on show across Sweden
Technology
Why Swedish pop star Robyn is pushing for more girls in tech
Gallery
Property of the week: Umeå
National
Introducing Sweden's Eurovision 2015 entry Måns Zelmerlöw
Gallery
People-watching: March 13th - 15th
National
Why have Swedish prosecutors made a U-turn in Julian Assange case?
Sponsored Article
How Sweden and India can work together
Politics
Who's the new young leader of the Christian Democrats?
Travel
Why are Swedes so obsessed with Mallorca?
Gallery
Princess Estelle celebrates her mother's name day in Stockholm
National
What's on in Sweden this week
National
Obama's anti-Semitism team heads to Stockholm and Malmö
Gallery
People-watching: March 11th
Technology
How a Swedish app is teaching children to empathize
Swedish grandparents put on disguises to snatch baby
National
Why Sweden may not be as gender equal as you think
Politics
Why does Russia blame Sweden for the crisis in Ukraine?
Gallery
Property of the week: Smögen
National
Listen to the English remix of a Swedish 'genitals' song gone viral
Technology
'Swedish women are strong and ambitious'
National
Why are 11 Roma people suing the Swedish state?
Sponsored Article
Expert US tax preparation for Americans in Sweden
Sponsored Article
Stockholm job fair helps immigrant entrepreneurs
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

3,451
jobs available
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
psdmedia.se