Michigan GOP's Matt Maddock claims Gonzaga team plane and buses are ‘illegal invaders’

Pavle Stosic #14 of Gonzaga shoots a 3-pointer during practice ahead of the NCAA Mens Basketball Tournament Sweet 16 round at Little Caesars Arena on March 28, 2024 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Mike Mulholland/Getty Images)

This weekend, Detroit hosts four teams for the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 – the Creighton Blue Jays, the Tennessee Volunteers, the Purdue Boilermakers, and the Gonzaga Bulldogs. The teams all arrived this week from their respective campuses – and one of them drew the ire of a Republican lawmaker, who claimed they are "illegal invaders".

State Representative Matt Maddock claims that a plane that landed at Detroit Metro Airport Wednesday evening were migrants who then loaded into three buses with a police escort. He posted photos of the three buses and the end of the plane – an Allegiant Airways plane – with this text: 

"Happening right now. Three busses (sic) just loaded up with illegal invaders at Detroit Metro. Anyone have any idea where they’re headed with their police escort?"

Maddock included Michigan GOP chairman Pete Hoekstra, who initially retweeted a post that included Maddock's tweet. however – Hoekstra has since deleted that off of his account.

RELATED: How a small Michigan town became center court for NCAA in Detroit, Final Four

Then on Thursday, Maddock doubled down on the baseless claim:

"We know this is happening. 100,000’s of illegals are pouring into our country. We know it’s happening in Michigan. Our own governor is offering money to take them in! Since we can’t trust the #FakeNews to investigate, citizens will. The process of investigating these issues takes time."

Thursday afternoon, the Wayne County Airport Authority tried to debunk the false 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.

Allegiant doesn't even fly to Detroit. In fact, Detroit is not listed as an option on Allegiant's website. On Flight Aware, only one Allegiant flight is listed as having arrived at DTW on Wednesday. It landed at 7:26 p.m. – about an hour before Maddock posted his claim.

The three buses did get a police escort to the team hotel. That's standard procedure for teams traveling for games.

But they were not full of migrants. They were not full of ‘illegal invaders’. They were full of basketball players, managers, assistants, and equipment. The buses – or others – will head back to the airport with the Gonzaga basketball team once they complete their games this weekend.

Social media is pushing back against Maddock's claims.

This user pointed out that it was the teams arriving for the games – and got a response from Maddock, who called her a "kommie".

Maddock also got a response from Michigan State Sen. Mallory McMorrow (D) who said his post was "dangerous".

"A sitting State Representative sees a group of buses at the airport and immediately yells "illegal invaders" which is a pretty rude (and also, frankly, dangerous) way to greet the Gonzaga Men’s Basketball Team arriving for March Madness," she wrote.