Thursday, May 6, 2010

Opening Pandora's Box

I can't help but wonder if the Phoenix Suns and team owner Robert Sarver really want to go where they've just gone.

The decision to wear those "Los Suns" jerseys in their playoff game against San Antonio moves the controversy about Arizona's new immigration law from the sidelines onto the playing field. And while you may well agree with the outrage over the Arizona law, are you ready for every ballgame to become the equivalent of a political rally?

Sarver and Suns star Steve Nash (pictured above) made it clear: they weren't just trotting out the Spanglish jerseys in honor of Cinco de Mayo. They were taking a stand against a law they consider to be wrong. In Sarver's words, "the result of passing the law is that our basic principles of equal rights and protection under the law are being called into question."

I'm not here to argue that point or to take a stand on the merits of the bill; plenty of other people are already on that beat. But: think for a moment and you can probably name plenty of other issues where people on one side or the other of the debate feel as strongly as Sarver does about the Arizona immigration bill. For starters, maybe the Patriot Act or the Roe v. Wade decision. See what I mean?

The NBA is living proof that America is a melting pot. Go scan the roster of any NBA team and you'll find a guy from another country. Only the crankiest xenophobe would argue that this is a bad thing. Nash himself is a foreigner (Canada) and a terrific argument for how America benefits by tapping into a worldwide pool of talent and ambition. This is true whether the immigrant is a landscape laborer or an NBA star.

I have no problem with an athlete or a team owner expressing a political viewpoint. In fact, to be honest, I rather admire the ones who do. It lets me know they can think about more than their stats.

But I am a little uneasy about seeing the discussion cross onto the field of play, perhaps because I'm worried about how far this trend might go.

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