LAST WEEK, WE WROTE about the Arizona Diamondbacks, whose games have been protested by immigrant rights activists opposed to Arizona’s new immigration law. Now, another Arizona team has come out on the other side of the debate.
During their playoff game with the Spurs on Wednesday, the Phoenix Suns wore Jerseys that read “Los Suns” to protest Arizona Senate Bill 1070, which requires police to question and arrest anyone who cannot prove that they are in the US legally. The law is widely understood to be targeted at Latinos, especially undocumented Mexican immigrants.
Steve Nash and other Suns players said in interviews that they supported the decision by owner Robert Sarver to wear the jerseys. The Spurs said that they plan on wearing “Los Spurs” jerseys if the series goes to a fifth game.
In the rest of the NBA, the reaction has been mixed. Commissioner David Stern has yet to publicly voice an opinion on the law, while L.A. Lakers coach Phil Jackson has spoken out against the Los Suns jerseys.
“If I heard it right the American people are really for stronger immigration laws, if I’m not mistaken,” he told ESPN. “Where we stand as basketball teams, we should let that kind of play out and let the political end of that go where it’s going to go.”
It’s startling to see Jackson, who’s always been known for his liberal political views, speaking out against the protest–he seems to be just about the only public figure in L.A. to be doing so. But it’s likely that the decision to wear the jerseys was more a financial one than a political one: According to Census estimates, Latinos make up nearly a third of the population in Arizona, and are heavily represented among the Suns’ fans
Even if it was primarily for the money, what the Suns did still comes off as meaningful. At the very least, it’s a measure of the respect they have for the fans who support them and pay their salaries.
More importantly, other sports team owners have taken the opposing side on this issue; Republican contributor and Diamondbacks part-owner Ken Kendrick comes to mind. It’s a little ridiculous to let sports figures finance support for the law but accuse them of meddling when they speak out against it.
Either way, the Suns are one team that aren’t likely to be boycotted any time soon.
Feature photo: primonene
Read about Tom Gates’ own immigration nightmare in Locked Down at London Heathrow.