Why Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was an honorary Detroit Piston this week

Detroit Free Press

Before she decided to pursue a career in politics, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer had dreams of being a sports broadcaster. She has long been a fan of sports, and briefly played basketball while attending high school.

On Monday, Whitmer got to live out her sports dream in a different way. The Detroit Pistons hosted her at their practice facility in New Center on Monday morning, and she participated in workouts and drills with players and assisted the coaching staff to get a behind-the-scenes look at how sports teams and athletes operate.

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The Pistons Performance Center is one stop in a series of visits that Whitmer is planning with various businesses and institutions across Michigan, in an effort for the governor to connect with the community following the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Whitmer is essentially moonlighting as an intern-for-the-day during the visits.

“I think it’s been important to get out and about,” Whitmer said. “This last year has been really isolating and you put COVID on top of everything else, and getting an opportunity to engage to see people in their different workplaces so that I can do everything in my role to support and to encourage growth and business of all types in Michigan is something that is a driving force for the work that I do as governor.”

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It wasn’t Whitmer’s first interaction with the Pistons, but it was her first time getting an in-depth look at the practice facility beyond a quick tour. Prior to Monday, she included former Piston Blake Griffin on a taskforce to promote awareness about COVID-19 vaccine safety.

And the Pistons are no strangers to politics, either. Last summer and fall, the team partnered with the Michigan Secretary of State’s office on multiple initiatives to educate voters and increase voting turnout, and offered their practice facility as a satellite center for the Nov. 3 election.

“One thing about Governor Whitmer is the fact that she’s a team player, she relates well to everybody, with Killian (Hayes) being a Frenchmen and everybody on the court, she did a good job relating,” Pistons coach Dwane Casey said. “And that’s what we need in our state, in our country, is someone who can unite, relate and understand people. That’s what it’s all about and I’m glad to hear us talk about the teamwork part of it, and I think that’s very, very important in our country and I think she’s a person to help us bring our state together and in turn, our country.”

Contact Omari Sankofa II at osankofa@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa. Read more on the Detroit Pistons and sign up for our Pistons newsletter.

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