Alright, let’s get just a little bit political…as you probably already know, the Suns are going to be wearing their “Los Suns” jerseys. From Paul Coro:
The gesture, which came with the blessing of the NBA and the league’s players union, reflects Sarver’s belief that passing Senate Bill 1070 was not “the right way to handle the immigration problem, Number 1,” he said. “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.”
This wasn’t a unilateral decision by Sarver; he held a team meeting and the idea received unanimous support from the players and coaches.
This has inspired a lot of talk about the intersection of sports and politics, and whether or not those roads should intersect at all. Over at Fanster, Vince Marotta posted this piece about the “distraction” that Sarver is causing his own team with this move. He talks briefly about the controversy going on as a result of the Immigration law, and says:
The biggest distraction from this debacle has been the recent play of the Phoenix Suns, who are currently embroiled in a playoff series against their longtime nemesis, the San Antonio Spurs. And hey, whaddya know, the Suns actually won Game 1 on Monday night–a stark reversal from thier [sic] playoff history with the Spurs.
So what does Robert Sarver go and do, not 24 hours after the Suns’ victory? He pissed all over our distraction, and very likely created another distraction–one for his own team.
I will absolutely agree that very often, sports can be a welcome distraction from real life. In early September 2001, I was planning to take a weekend road trip from Minneapolis to Chicago and Milwaukee to watch a bunch of baseball games. We were supposed to leave on Friday, September 14th. Obviously, that didn’t happen, as there were no games played that weekend. I have very vivid memories of a conversation I had with my mom, before the games were cancelled, in which I told her yeah, I was still planning to go, because the only thing I wanted in the world was to go to a ballgame. I wanted the distraction from some pretty scary shit…I wanted sports to be that distraction.
This is different. What is it that the Suns are providing a welcome distraction from? People being angry about a law that promotes racism in the state of Arizona? (This is the part where I clarify, as is required in a column about the AZ immigration law, that I think that illegal immigration is a huge problem in this state. I do think that the problem needs to be dealt with. But I think this law is reactionary, short-sighted, and, as Sarver says, mean-spirited.) I don’t think we ought to be trying real hard to distract ourselves from that. I think that Sarver and the Suns deserve accolades for standing up and telling people that they don’t think this is right. Here’s another quote from Marotta:
Yes, Mr. Sarver, you’ve stated your opinion on this issue, and in the process dragged your whole franchise right into the middle of it, unnecessarily I might add. Do you think there was going to be any backlash from anyone if the Suns simply took the court on the 5th of May wearing their plain old home white jerseys that ‘Suns’ across the chest? Do you think anyone would have lost sleep because you hadn’t commented on the immigration bill? I don’t think so.
He’s exactly right. There would probably not be any backlash if the Suns wore their regular jerseys. No one would lose sleep because Sarver hadn’t commented. Which is why the fact that Sarver and the Suns made this decision is all the more honorable. It would surely have been easier for Sarver to keep his mouth shut and for the Suns to just wear the plain old whites and just play basketball. But by doing this, the Suns are letting everyone know that there are things that are bigger than basketball. The Suns feel like this is important, and saying so takes guts.
Too often, athletes and other people in high profile positions choose to say nothing about important things. For the Suns and the Spurs (who wanted to wear their Los Spurs jerseys) alike, the decision has been made that they need to say something. And all things considered, this is a fairly innocuous gesture. They’ve said their words and they’ll wear those Los Suns jerseys, but they’re still going to play the game. I mean, this isn’t Amazing Grace and Chuck; the Suns aren’t saying that they refuse to play basketball until the state of Arizona does away with a law that promotes hatred and racism.
I don’t see how this will be a distraction during the game. The teams agree on the issue; it’s not like they’ll settle down for a policy debate in lieu of playing the game. Maybe there’ll be some hate- and/or fearmongers in the crowd who will have some hateful things to say to the Suns; here’s hoping the staff has a short leash for such things.
Robert Sarver and the Suns made a decision that shows strength, courage, and guts. Hopefully it will give others who disagree with this law the strength to find their own voices. You’ve gotta start somewhere, right? And as is often the case, the last word goes to Sir Charles: