Wednesday, May 5th, 2010 at 12:34 pm  |  18 responses

Here Come Los Suns

SLAM columnist Dave Zirin on the battle over immigration law in Arizona

by Dave Zirin

A battle has been joined for the very soul of Arizona. On one side, there are the Minutemen, the craven state Republican lawmakers, Governor Jan Brewer, and the utterly unprincipled John McCain, all supporting SB 1070, a law that codifies racial profiling of immigrants in the state. On the other are the Sun Belt residents who protested on May 1st, the students who have engaged in walkouts, and the politicians and civic leaders calling for an economic boycott of their own state.

This battle has also been joined in the world of sports. On one side is Major League Baseball’s Arizona Diamondbacks. Owned by state Republican moneyman Ken Kendrick, the team has drawn protesters to parks around the country. On the other side, we now have the Phoenix Suns. On Tuesday the news came forth that today, on Cinco de Mayo, the team will be wearing jerseys that say simply Los Suns. Team owner Robert Sarver said, after talking to the team, that this will be an act of sartorial solidarity against the bill. Their opponent, the San Antonio Spurs, have made clear that they support the gesture.

In a statement released by the team, Sarver said, “The frustration with the federal government’s failure to deal with the issue of illegal immigration resulted in passage of a flawed state law. However intended, the result of passing this law is that our basic principles of equal rights and protection under the law are being called into question, and Arizona’s already struggling economy will suffer even further setbacks at a time when the state can ill-afford them.”

He followed up the statement by saying to reporters, “I looked around our plane and looked at our players and the diversity in our organization. I thought we need to go on record that we honor our diversity in our team, in the NBA and we need to show support for that. As for the political part of that, that’s my statement. There are times you need to stand up and be heard. I respect people’s views on the other side but I just felt it was appropriate for me to stand up and make a statement.”

After Sarver spoke out, the team chimed in against the passage and signing of SB 1070.

Two-time MVP point guard Steve Nash, who in 2003 became the first athlete to go on record against the Iraq war said, “I think the law is very misguided. I think it is unfortunately to the detriment to our society and our civil liberties and I think it is very important for us to stand up for things we believe in. I think the law obviously can target opportunities for racial profiling. Things we don’t want to see and don’t need to see in 2010.”

All-Star power forward Amar’e Stoudemire, who has no political reputation, also chimed in saying, “It’s going to be great to wear Los Suns to let the Latin community know we’re behind them 100 percent.”

After the story broke, I spoke on the phone with NBA Players Association Presdient Billy Hunter about the Suns audacious move.

“It’s phenomenal,” he said. “This makes it clear to me that it’s a new era. It’s a new time. Athletes can tend to be apolitical and isolated from the issues that impact the general public. But now here come the Suns. I would have expected nothing less from Steve Nash who has been out front on a number of issues over the years. I also want to recognize Amare. I know how strident Amare can be and I’m really impressed to see him channel his intensity. It shows a tremendous growth and maturity on his part. And I have to applaud Bob Sarver because he is really taking a risk by putting himself out there. I commend them. I just think it’s super.”

Hunter said that the union would have their own statement out by the end of the week.

This kind of political intervention by a sports team is without precedent, and now every athlete and every team has an opening to stand up and be heard. Because when it’s all said and done, this isn’t just a battle for the soul of Arizona. It’s a battle for the soul of the United States.

Here come the Suns indeed.

first run at thenation.com

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  • http://www.motherjones.com AndTheJellosJigglin

    This is a great gesture- but I think it would have been even more effective if it was not on Cinco De Mayo. But where was all this discussion and protest before the bill was actually passed? Here in the United States of Pacifists, We will take this as a victory if the bill gets repealed, when in actuality we will be back to where we were, with no immigration reform. Use this opportunity fellow citizens. DOWN WITH SB1070!!! Equality for all!

  • http://twitter.com/dyalektraps d.Y.

    This is a great reason for a city & nation to rally around a sports team. People throw around the phrase “America’s Team” while the Suns are showing what that can really mean. I hope they wear those jerseys in the Finals too.

  • http://idunkonthem.blogspot.com/ albie1kenobi

    i am a fan of the spurs, but i will root for Los Suns tonight. this is bigger than sports. this is real life.

  • http://www.stuffwhitepeoplelike.com Tarzan Cooper

    Everyone is crying out for peace peace, none is crying out or justice. Everyone is crying out for peace yes, none is crying out for justice. I dont want no peace, I man need equal rights and justice. I said, equal rights and justice, I gotta get it. Equal rights and justice

  • http://www.bulls.com Enigmatic

    I am Mexican by birth, but I love the US and far as I’m concerned, I am a Mexican-American, and it’s the “American” part where my loyalty lies. That being said, I know something needs to be done about illegal immagration, but this bill? This is a slap in the face to all of us who are here legally, and all immigrants who have served this country. I keep hearing if I’m here legally, I have nothing to worry about. But umm… I only have to “look” illegal for the cops to have reasonable suspicion to pull me over. Let’s see…black hair? Check. Brown eyes? Check. Brown skin? Check. Looks like I’m a prime candidate for being a victim of this legalized method of racial profiling!

  • Scottie Pimpin

    isnt arizona the same A-holes who wanted to ban the martin luther king holiday a while back ?

    though you gotta give it up to the likes of john mcaines and the redneck minutemen. they have no shame in their game….and on that note…..

    NBA, where protesting your idiotic racist laws happens. Go Los Suns !!!

  • Jorge

    Enigmatic, I agree!!! a friend of mine fought in Irak and died. His family still unable to obtain Citizenship for him!! “Death is not enough Mam!!! We need his fingerprints…is he around”.
    Just imagine those Republicans trying to explain the law to Obama…..”Yes Mr. President, it is only for people that look Dark, you know….you know what I mean…kind of …ummm..something like…..ummm….
    kind of brown but not that brown….ummmm like…but you know what, we mean it from the bottom of our hearts.”

  • http://www.hibachi20.blogspot.com BETCATS

    This is the type of political gesture in sports i can support. I am glad the Suns are doing this. This bill is simply misguided. While i think we can all agree that illegal immigration is a huge problem, what this bill calls to be done is not right. I think all citizens and legal immigrants should be treated like people. I think more should be done for the illegal immigrants that are here now. Their should be modified citizenship tests and more ESL classes so that we can make them Americans and give them acces to the rights they are entitled to. But we also need to protect our borders better, so that less new immigrants can get into the country illegally. This bill doesnt really do any of that, it just is a ‘fast solution’ that comes with lots of ramifications.

  • http://thetroyblog.com Teddy-the-Bear

    Hispanics face a lot of discrimination in the United States, I’m not even going to front…

  • http://twitter.com/max_in_missouri Max in Missouri

    This is ridiculous! I can’t believe the Suns are commenting on this. Without even taking into consideration the fact that they are extremely ignorant and wrong, I just don’t want to hear what they have to say. Why do we care what entertainers have to say about politics? These people are rich clowns who are completely disconnected with reality. And on top of that, why should we give a flying f#ck what Nash (a Canadian) has to say about people from another country (Mexico) coming into our country, the United States? Just shut your freakin mouth and play basketball.

  • http://twitter.com/max_in_missouri Max in Missouri

    Here’s how I feel about the Suns speaking out: Don’t! Just shut your mouths and play basketball. We don’t care what you have to say. Your opinion means nothing more than anyone else’s. We just want you to go bounce a ball, pass it around, take some shots, and…..well, you’re the Suns, so I won’t even ask you to play defense. Please notice that I did not ask you to “ramble on about things that you know nothing about” on that list, just basketball related activities. For the love of God, I hope it doesn’t become acceptable for NBA teams to take political positions….

  • http://www.nba.com/suns Dacre

    They should really just let the Suns play straight into the NBA finals – If THIS move doesn’t help STERNBOT orchestrate things already… ^_^

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  • Papa Smurf

    Max in Missouri said: “why should we give a flying f#ck what Nash (a Canadian) has to say about people from another country (Mexico) coming into our country, the United States?”

    I know. That’s as crazy as thinking we should give a flying f#ck about what a guy from Missouri has to say about an Arizona law . . . oh, wait . . . clown.

  • http://idunkonthem.blogspot.com/ albie1kenobi

    @Max in Missouri: you are absolutely right that you don’t have to care what entertainers say about politics, but because they are NOT rich clowns who actually ARE connected with reality that are taking a stand against something they don’t believe is right. just because they are bouncing a ball for a living doesn’t mean they are not sensitive to what actually is happening in the real world. they chose to use their public status and their voices in a meaningful way because really, would you have pay attention to all the rallys in Arizona? no because you wouldn’t even know about it. try telling “entertainers shouldn’t meddle with politics” to Muhammad Ali.

  • Fredo

    Papa Smurf is the man!

  • charlie

    It is not uncommon for the most affluent not to realize the plight of the masses who on a daily basis have to live in tollorance of situations that they themselves do not have to.Yet, I suspect, if they were ask to or [more directly]required to give a substantial portion of their income[as the taxpayers are]to support thoes that have forced their way into America rather earned their way,just perhaps they would think differently.”YOU THINK?”