Mika Zibanejad is Swedish. His father is from Iran, lives in the United States and has a green card.
These were just details about the New York Rangers forward’s life before last weekend, but then an executive order signed by President Donald Trump changed that. It banned travelers from seven Muslim-centric countries from entering the United States for the immediate future, which impacts the NHL player’s family — including his grandmother, aunts and eight cousins living in Iran.
He spoke to the NY Daily News about the ban, calling it “confusing” when it comes to seeing his relatives, and them him.
“It’s unfortunate that it’s been very hard to kind of find a way to see them, an easy way for both parts,” he said. “Obviously being here now and living here doesn’t make it easier. That sucks, but I can’t comment more of how things are. Right now it just sucks. The more further this goes and we see what kind of solution we come to, then it’s easier to kind of comment on.”
Zibanejad said the ban wasn’t unexpected, given Trump’s previous comments, but still seemed to arrive out of nowhere.
“I guess when a change like this comes very, not from nowhere, but when it comes down like it did, I feel like there was maybe not a whole lot of thought about how to work it out. It seems very straightforward but very confusing about how they deal with it,” he said.
The Trump Administration’s executive order has collided head-on with professional sports, in particular the NBA.
The NBA contacted the U.S. State Department about the ban, and teams like the Milwaukee Bucks have spoken out about it as well.
Not long after NBA leadership reached out to the State Department regarding “how this executive order would apply to players in our league who are from one of the impacted countries” — namely Maker and Los Angeles Lakers forward Luol Deng (a British citizen also born in Wau, Sudan) — a federal judge ruled a significant portion of Trump’s policy unconstitutional, allowing immigrants with valid visas or refugee status to enter the country without risk of being detained by border police.
On Saturday night, Maker indeed made his second career NBA start, against the Boston Celtics.
By Sunday morning, Trump’s administration was already negotiating publicly for a compromise that would allow for “extreme vetting” of immigrants — including those with green cards, dual citizenship and perhaps even people from more countries than the seven originally listed — and that is of particular concern to members of the NBA competing in a “a global league” with many Muslim players.
While the NBA has spoken out about the travel ban en masse, other sports have been quiet. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman declined to go on the record about the League’s stance on the Muslim ban during a meeting with reporters on Sunday.
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