In general, people in the sports world keep their political leanings to themselves. Sure, there are a few guys who regularly speak out on political issues, but for the most part that's considered bad business. As Michael Jordan put it, "Republicans buy shoes too." That's why what the Phoenix Suns are doing is so amazing.
The team will be wearing its "Los Suns" jerseys for Wednesday night's Game 2 against the San Antonio Spurs "to honor [the] Latino community and the diversity of our league, the state of Arizona, and our nation." Awesome.
The decision to wear the jerseys came from way up the corporate ladder, as team owner Robert Sarver suggested the team wear their Noche Latina alternates.
Sarver, who was born and raised in Tucson, said frustration with the federal government's failure to deal with the illegal immigration issue led to the passage of what he called "a flawed state law."
"However intended, the result of passing the law is that our basic principles of equal rights and protection under the law are being called into question," he said, "and Arizona's already struggling economy will suffer even further setbacks at a time when the state can ill-afford them."
The Suns voted on the jerseys and unanimously decided to wear them for Cinco De Mayo. As if he weren't likeable enough, Phoenix guard Steve Nash(notes) succinctly summed up the Suns' feelings on the issue.
"I think it's fantastic," Nash said after Tuesday's practice. "I think the law is very misguided. I think it's, unfortunately, to the detriment of our society and our civil liberties. I think it's very important for us to stand up for things we believe in. As a team and as an organization, we have a lot of love and support for all of our fans. The league is very multicultural. We have players from all over the world, and our Latino community here is very strong and important to us."
And it's not just the Suns who are speaking out on this issue.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is on board, and the team even tried to get their "Los Spurs" jerseys, though it was too late to do so. When asked for approval to wear the jerseys, the NBA "was all for it," said Suns general manager Steve Kerr. Furthermore, NBA Players Association executive director Billy Hunter issued a press release, denouncing the law.
The recent passage of the new immigration law in Arizona is disappointing and disturbing. The National Basketball Players Association strongly supports the repeal or immediate modification of this legislation. Any attempt to encourage, tolerate or legalize racial profiling is offensive and incompatible with basic notions of fairness and equal protection. A law that unfairly targets one group is ultimately a threat to all.
We applaud the actions of Phoenix Suns players and management and join them in taking a stand against the misguided efforts of Arizona lawmakers. We are consulting with our members and our player leadership to determine the most effective way for our union to continue to voice our opposition to this legislation.
It's not much, just an extra three letters on the front of a tanktop, but it means a lot more. As Kerr said, the Suns want to "make sure that people understand that we know what's going on and we don't agree with the law itself." For a sports team, that's huge.