By JOHN PYE
AP Sports Writer
BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — Patty Mills for Prime Minister. In a statesman’s-style address, the San Antonio Spurs guard delivered a message to Olympians and to his fellow Australians who are dealing with the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.
With the NBA season suspended, and serious travel restrictions in play, Mills posted a video on social media from his home in Texas, “where we’ve been self isolated for the past almost two weeks,” to respond to the Australian Olympic Committee’s advice to its athletes to prepare for the Tokyo Games being delayed to 2021.
Sitting on a comfortable chair, and wearing shorts and a sweat shirt with OZ printed on the front, the three-time Olympian commended the Australian committee for its “proactive approach in handling this unprecedented crisis.”
“This message is for everyone in Australia, fellow Australian athletes …. and of course, anyone else who’d like to listen,” Mills said. “I’m absolutely gutted that this crisis has affected the largest international sporting event in the world. But just like everyone, athlete or not, the health of all these people remain the top priority. We’re all in this together.”
Mills was measured in his message, delivered with an Australian-themed backdrop including his gold Boomers No. 5 jersey draped over the corner of a canvas of the Olympic rings covered with hundreds of signatures. On a small table, there’s a boxing kangaroo and a doll draped with Australia’s indigenous flags.
“To my teammates, do not be discouraged by this adversity. As an Olympic athlete, your goal remains the same: To represent our country the best way possible and strive to be your very best,” he said. “Your goal doesn’t change. Just regroup, regather and adjust your preparation plans. Stay positive.”
The coronavirus has infected more than 382,000 people and killed more than 16,500 around the world. It started in China late last year and took a while to reach to Australia, where the death toll increased to eight on Tuesday.
The government has shut down pubs, clubs, cinemas and restaurants, imposed travel restrictions and all but closed the borders. Officials are urging residents to stay at home, or close to home, and to keep a distance of 1.5 meters (5 feet) to other people.
“Please, stay at home, and keep your distance,” Mills said. “The better we can control this virus, the better we can look after each other. And the better us athletes will be able to prepare to represent you once the Tokyo Olympics arrive.”
His hands clasped together, he closed with a message of unity: “Tokyo together.”
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