A New Era: Here Come The Suns

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 protestors to parks around the country. On the other side, we now have the Phoenix Suns. On Tuesday the news came forth that tomorrow on Cinco de Mayo, the team would 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 Stoudamire, 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%.”

After the story broke, I spoke on the phone with NBA Players Association President 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 Amar'e. I know how strident Amar'e 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.” He 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.

[Dave Zirin is the author of the forthcoming "Bad Sports: How Owners are Ruining the Games we Love" (Scribner) Receive his column every week by emailing dave@edgeofsports.com. Contact him at edgeofsports@gmail.com.]

15 Reader Comments | Add a comment

Intervention

Individual "intervention" has been prominent throughout all professional sports, but I think you're right that this is a first for a team. It's encouraging I think.

nice gesture

but it's very naive based on the timing of cinco de mayo and the precedent of other teams - including the spurs - doing this to think it is a political statement and not already a marketing effort in the works already.

Racism?

By using the logic of those who cry racism when criticizing this Arizona law, it could be concluded that ANY form of Immigration enforcement is racist by nature. Is that right? When the Feds raid an employer at a food processing factory that employs 90% Latinos, is that racist? Considering the estimated millions of illegal immigrants from Latin America living and working in America, an overwhelming majority of all total illegal immigrants in our country, it can always be condemned as racial profiling for any form of enforcement.
Now this particular law in Arizona may or may not be an effective enforcement policy. But something has to be done. Illegals are burdening our already diminishing availability social services, their effect on the labor market our disastrous from the perspective of working-class Americans.
We heard the same accusations of racism a few years ago when immigration reform was being considered in DC. This criticism from the media and talking heads is very monolithic, in stark ontrast to US public opinion. &0% of Americans support this Arizona law, and a similar number favor stict enforcement of our immigration laws. But we get shouted down as ignorant, back-water, racist rednecks from the likes who never have to compete with an illegal immigrant for a job, nor seek assistance from our social services.
The collective effort to curtail any meaningful enforcement of immigration laws is anti-democratic elitism.

Racism? (2nd edition)

By using the logic of those who cry racism when criticizing this Arizona law, it could be concluded that ANY form of Immigration enforcement is racist by nature. Is that right? When the Feds raid an employer at a food processing factory that employs 90% Latinos, is that racist? Considering the estimated millions of illegal immigrants from Latin America living and working in America, an overwhelming majority of all total illegal immigrants in our country, it can always be condemned as racial profiling for ANY form of enforcement.
Now this particular law in Arizona may or may not be an effective enforcement policy. But something has to be done. Illegals are burdening our already diminishing availability of social services, their effect on the labor market is disastrous from the perspective of working-class Americans.
We heard the same accusations of racism a few years ago when immigration reform was being considered in DC. This criticism from the media and talking heads is very monolithic, in stark contrast to US public opinion. 70% of Americans support this Arizona law, and a similar number favor strict enforcement of our immigration laws. But we get shouted down as ignorant, back-water, racist rednecks from the likes who never have to compete with an illegal immigrant for a job, nor seek assistance from the state for social services.
The collective effort to curtail any meaningful enforcement of immigration laws is anti-democratic elitism.

Dave has trouble telling minorities apart-- bigot?

Hey Dave, the name is Amar'e Stoudemire -- not 'Amare Stoudamire.' What, did you mix him up with Damon Stoudamire?

In your last post, you mixed up Felipe Calderon, the Harvard-educated President of Mexico, with Ivan Calderon, the Puerto Rican outfielder for the Chicago White Sox.

What, is it hard for you to tell minorities apart?

Many race-hustling opportunists like Dave Zirin are often closeted bigots themselves.

I'm siding with Gator on this one; kind of.

The advertising that's been on tv, at least in Philadelphia, suggests that the Suns are targeting Cinco de Mayo profits. While it is noteworthy and commendable that the Suns' owner has come out against SB 1070, this situation leads me to believe that even progressive politics come with a price tag, that distancing oneself is still part of making money, much as Ken Kendricks has/hasn't opposed the newly ratified law. It reminds me of going into a convenience store shortly before the 2008 presidential election and being affected by a sign in the store that read: "If you want change, you have to buy something."

Ivan, if that's the best you have, go back to the drawing board. Typos aren't admissable in a court room.

Slick Willy, stop the pseudo-progressive stick about being on the line for working class Americans. When I was a union organizer, this was lesson one: illegal immigrants/your co-workers don't set wages, employers do. This law is anything but a protection for working people; if it was, there would be provisions to repeal Right to Work, implement a statewide EFCA, and set a mandatory Living Wage, but it doesn't. And I'd like to see your citations for how 'illegals' are burdeoning 'us' and what programs in particular, as well as specific numbers. Baseless conjecture and hyperbole aren't welcome.

Choosing to make it political

Perhaps it is a marketing strategy, but the way it's being cast in the media is as a political statement and definitely a welcome one. The Suns could have said, "We're wearing our Los Suns jerseys to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, but we're not saying anything about SB1070." However, the information around it and how it's being presented all allude to the choice to make it into a political act.

I finally have a clear team to root for in the NBA playoffs and they play fun basketball. Go Suns!

IvanTroll

nuff said

I'll play along that race has nothing to do with this...

Ok, I'll play along that race has nothing to do with this. It's solely and only about immigration. Sure, I can bring you all kinds of statistics (many of them supported by Republicans) on how immigrants (legal or illegal) actually help the economy. But for Devil's Advocate sake, lets just say we get tough on immigration and get even tougher on illegal aliens for whatever good reasons we may come up with. Maybe we want to add more work for the police or maybe we want to build more prisons - in the country that already has the most prisoners. So, let's just say that's all good...

Don't you think that having a law that mandates that all citizens (white, black, gray, blue or pink) carry ID (to prove their LEGAL STATUS) is a step towards a MANDATORY NATIONAL ID? And yes, may sound crazy now, these IDs could easily have GPS tracking devices in the near future.

If we don't stop this Grand Canyon State law from taking effect, other states will follow (very quickly), and soon it will be nationwide.

Checking for, and mandating everyone carry proof of their immigration status opens a whole can of worms for EVERYONE.

Currently, you don't need ID to be in your home, go out the get your newspaper, walk your kid to the school bus, ride your bike, go jogging… This law WILL change that. You will have to carry ID at all time or else!

We need to kill this LAW at the ROOT now! OR believe me, in 10 years… We'll all be living like the old USSR but with 21st Century technology.

I'm sure we are all looking forward to that!

I'll play along that race has nothing to do with this...

Ok, I'll play along that race has nothing to do with this. It's solely and only about immigration. Sure, I can bring you all kinds of statistics (many of them supported by Republicans) on how immigrants (legal or illegal) actually help the economy. But for Devil's Advocate sake, lets just say we get tough on immigration and get even tougher on illegal aliens for whatever good reasons we may come up with. Maybe we want to add more work for the police or maybe we want to build more prisons - in the country that already has the most prisoners. So, let's just say that's all good...

Don't you think that having a law that mandates that all citizens (white, black, gray, blue or pink) carry ID (to prove their LEGAL STATUS) is a step towards a MANDATORY NATIONAL ID? And yes, may sound crazy now, these IDs could easily have GPS tracking devices in the near future.

If we don't stop this Grand Canyon State law from taking effect, other states will follow (very quickly), and soon it will be nationwide.

Checking for, and mandating everyone carry proof of their immigration status opens a whole can of worms for EVERYONE.

Currently, you don't need ID to be in your home, go out the get your newspaper, walk your kid to the school bus, ride your bike, go jogging… This law WILL change that. You will have to carry ID at all time or else!

We need to kill this LAW at the ROOT now! OR believe me, in 10 years… We'll all be living like the old USSR but with 21st Century technology.

I'm sure we are all looking forward to that!

Immigrants (legal or illegal) don't take jobs, they create (more) jobs.

BTW... Immigrants (legal or illegal) don't take jobs, they create (more) jobs. More people coming into a city or town are more consumers that will need shoes, groceries, teachers, lawyers, houses, apts, cars, gas, sandwiches, restaurants, bars and so on.

So, lets say you lost your job, but then 40 immigrants come into your town, thats 40 people that will need some kind of service. So you can either go start a business (to service them), or chances are some local business will soon start to get busy filling the needs of the new people. When these new immigrants take jobs as nannies or lawn cutters... they make money that gets put back into the local economy. Thus creating even more NEW jobs.

On the other hand if you lose your job, because the place you work for has slowed down, and theres no new people in town, chances are you will have to move to another town to find work. And soon your town will be dead.

This whole fear of immigrants, that they will take jobs, is solely base on xenophobia. People's fear of living with more people they don't know. The US has been one of the few countries in the world with very lenient immigration policies. This is one of the of the reasons the USA has been able to stay on top for so long. Capitalism needs immigrants (especially illegals).

A "free market" like the one we have here needs NEW consumers everyday to stay afloat. It needs fresh new jobs everyday. Otherwise the whole "free Market" system collapses. There are countless historical examples of this (in the USA).

Ever look at Europe. Notice how they have strict immigration laws (similar to the ones in AZ). Europe has been doing this for decades, and they know that free markets don't work well with little immigration. So, for this reason, Europe has a lot of state control and state run programs. take a look for yourself, do some research… you will notice how European countries have a lot of socialized programs. The governments there own part of many corporations (things like AIRBUS, Volkswagen, etc are partly owned by the State). Further more, UNIONS are very very strong. In the USA, we don't have strong unions anymore (You think US unions are strong? check out what they do in Europe). In Europe the state strongly controls real estate (from sales to the renting market). There are countries (like Holland and Denmark) that pay parents (rich or poor) a monthly check for each child. And they even pay for education through college. Oh, and did I mention many of these countries tax up to 50% of people's income.

My point is that any country or state with strict IMMIGRATION control - has to be ready to fully support its citizens with JOB, HOUSING, EDUCATION, TRANSPORTATION, and HEALTH security. Because without an expanding population, towns and cities die.

So, before you scold immigrants (legal or illegal)… try to figure out what side of the fence you are on when it our national economy. You want the go ol' USA? Then we need more immigrants legal and illegal (illegals provide the most profit for corporations). If you want our economy go further down the hole, then yeah, lets curve immigration.

Or maybe, just maybe… all of you who are against immigration want the USA to be more like Europe? Are you all ready for that?

lush,

you make some good points but illegal immigrants are not the same type of consumer that a US born citizen is. Generally a disproportionate amount of their income is sent back to their home country as opposed to being used locally. Their impact on economic growth is not as simplistic as you state.

Immigration, Racism, etc.

Lush Empire does a good job of explaining the role of immigrants in our expanding economy. To provide specifics: 1/3 of our country's agricultural production comes from California. 90% of it is produced by Mexican workers. 60% of those workers are undocumented ("illegal"). That means that we *depend* on "illegal" immigrants every day--for our fruit smoothies, salads, grilled chicken sandwiches, hamburgers, (1/3 of meat production in this country is done by "illegal" labor). What anti-immigrant proponents refuse to recognize is that "illegal" immigrants *feed* the entire nation. They clean our hotel rooms when we take vacations, make our "Made in the U.S.A." clothing, etc., etc. Corporations make *huge* profits from such "cheap" labor for their stockholders (your 401K plans), and we as consumers get to buy strawberries for $1.49/pint. Gator, yes, immigrants send remittances back home and many people back home depend on that money. But immigrants also need to buy gym shoes, toilet paper, FOOD, while they are in the U.S. They DO contribute to the economy and "illegal" immigrants have paid $6-7 *billion* of SURPLUS into the social security system by using false ss numbers in order to work here. They can not claim that money, so they are being *taxed* even more than U.S. citizens just for the right to work. These are facts. It tells us just how desperate people must be if they are willing to be overtaxed just for the chance to work for minimum wage or lower.

Why is this legislation racist? The answer is long and complicated. Only 60% of undocumented immigrants are actually from Latin America, but they are the ones overwhelmingly targeted (90% of ICE arrest raids). Latino immigrants are overrepresented in deportation sweeps because they are easy targets--workers in poultry plants, sweatshops, etc. The reasons behind why so many Latin American immigrants are in the U.S. (before you start laying all the blame on Latin American governments and economies) has a lot to do with IMF and World Bank neoliberal development policies that the U.S. supports. And it has everything to do with our current immigration policies that *disadvantage* Latin American immigrants in our current quota system and make it virtually impossible for folks to migrate "legally" in the first place! We are very much a part of why they migrate with our foreign policies, trade policies (NAFTA, etc.). It's very convenient and disingenuous for us to scapegoat an entire group of people and act as though we're their innocent victims when we play a huge role in bringing them here in the first place and we benefit *tremendously* from their presence. The only difference between these immigrants today and the Europeans of a century ago who toiled in sweatshops, meatpacking plants, etc. and did all the hardest labor is that our immigration laws have changed and we *make* many of today's Latin American immigrants "illegal".

@lush/ohio

Both of you should replace these so-called experts melting my TV with hot-air...good points! This issue is no more different than the current drug wars being fought in Mexico...over profits that come from where? It sure as heck isn't from Mexico if we're worried about illegal immigration up here and don't bother bringing up Canada...where you can find tunnels being dug to transport drugs to where?

What's really important

GO SPURS!!!

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Dave Zirin is the author of the book: "Welcome to the Terrordome: The Pain, Politics and Promise of Sports" (Haymarket). You can receive his column Edge of Sports, every week by going to dave@edgeofsports.com.
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