They Flew In for NCAA Tourney, Got Accused of Being 'Invaders'

Michigan GOP state Rep. Matt Maddock said college basketball players were 'illegal' immigrants
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 29, 2024 10:18 AM CDT
GOP Pol Accuses NCAA Teams of Being 'Illegal Invaders'
March Madness branding near the court before a first-round game between Kent State and Notre Dame in the women's NCAA Tournament on Saturday in South Bend, Indiana.   (AP Photo/Michael Caterina)

March Madness' Sweet 16 tourney kicked off Thursday, and four teams traveled this week to Detroit in preparation for their weekend games. A Republican lawmaker in Michigan didn't see them as NCAA basketball players, however, when their planes landed Wednesday night, reports FOX 2. "Happening right now. Three busses just loaded up with illegal invaders at Detroit Metro," GOP state Rep. Matt Maddock wrote on X that evening, showing a photo of said buses, as well as a parked Allegiant airplane. "Anyone have any idea where they're headed with their police escort?"

Maddock tagged Michigan GOP chairman Pete Hoekstra in the post; Hoekstra initially retweeted a post that included Maddock's tweet, then deleted it from his feed. The Detroit Free Press notes it's not clear if Maddock himself took the pictures in his post. Still, he seemed quite insistent—even after X's Community Notes pointed out that the Allegiant plane appeared to be the Gonzaga Bulldogs' aircraft—that he'd spotted something nefarious in the works. The Wayne County Airport Authority was among those debunking his claims.

"The four men's basketball teams competing in the NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16 at Little Caesars Arena arrived at DTW Wednesday evening. The buses seen in a photograph circulating online were transporting the basketball teams and their respective staffs," the WCAA said in a statement. FOX 2 adds that it's standard procedure for traveling teams to receive a police escort, and an Allegiant rep tells CNN that the only Allegiant plane that flew into that airport on Wednesday was a charter plane for Gonzaga's team.

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Despite being corrected online and elsewhere, Maddock doubled down on Thursday, claiming "100,000's of illegals are pouring into our country." He also refused to concede that it was college basketball players on the buses, not immigrants. "I haven't heard a good answer yet," Maddock told the AP in a text. "I took a tip and asked because this is happening in many places and it is well documented." The AP notes that Maddock's wife, Meshawn Maddock, who once chaired Michigan's GOP, is one of more than a dozen Republicans facing criminal charges for allegedly acting as fake electors to help overturn the 2020 election in favor of former President Trump. She has pleaded not guilty. (More Gonzaga stories.)

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