Thursday, May 6, 2010

Suns Team Owner On The Way To Immigration Law

We all know that politics and basketball don't mix but they sometimes collide. On this day, the MVP of the Phoenix Suns isn't Amar'e Stoudemire or Steve Nash, but team owner Robert Sarver, with an assist from General Manager Steve Kerr. They saw a political freight train heading right toward them and - rather than veer out of the way - accelerated full-speed right into it.

That doesn't happen often in the pro game. Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in professional baseball was a collision of sports and politics. Muhammad Ali's legal fight against the draft was a collision. Tommie Smith and John Carlos raising a Black-power salute during the playing of the national anthem in the 1968 Olympics was a collision.

And now, in a way no one saw coming, Senate Bill 1070, the state's new immigration-enforcement law, has collided head-on with the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Phoenix Suns. The Diamondbacks tried to avoid it. Owner Ken Kendrick, a major contributor to Republican causes, was surprised by the protesters who greeted his team outside ballparks. Kendrick issued a mild-mannered statement saying that he personally disagreed with the law, then sent out his public-relations flacks to spread the word about sports not really having anything to do with politics and that people upset with SB 1070 shouldn't take it out on his franchise.

The team, for the most part, was silent, allowing the baseball players association to issue a tough statement against the law. The Phoenix Suns and their owner, Sarver, took a slightly different tack. Instead of trying to avoid a collision, Sarver steered his high-rolling franchise right onto the controversy.

He sought and received unanimous support from his players for them to wear their "Los Suns" jerseys for Game 2 on Wednesday. He told The Arizona Republic that the new immigration law was not "the right way to handle the immigration problem, Number 1. Number 2, as I read through the bill, it felt to me a little bit like it was mean-spirited, and I personally just don't agree with it."

Team General Manager Steve Kerr added, "It's hard to imagine in this country that we have to produce papers. It rings up images of Nazi Germany. We understand that the intentions of the law are not for that to happen, but you have to be very, very careful. . . . It's important that everyone in our state and nation understands this is an issue that needs to be explored. So, we're trying to expose it."

According to some sports analysts, a reader calling himself "chatmandu" wrote, "Steve Nash can move back to Canada, and the Suns can go play for Mexico City. ... I am burning all my Suns stuff in effigy." Reader "tonyman10" added, "I attended the first ever Suns game at the Madhouse on McDowell and became an avid fan. . . . I've attended at least a dozen games each year and watch every other one on TV. That all ended today. . . . " Others, like "Bob46" praised the team, saying, "Sometimes you just have to do the right thing, regardless of the consequences. Thank you, Robert Sarver and Suns players. ..."

Whether you agree with the Suns' decision or not, you should be proud of them for taking a stand and for doing so the right way. No wavering. No dancing around the issues. It took guts. It showed heart. In basketball terms, they drove straight down the lane and jammed it.

Or as the "voice of the Suns," Al McCoy, might say, "It's a wham, bam, slam!"

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