Los Suns make political statement, still score victory

Nash and "Los Suns" made a political statement while staying focused enough to earn a victory. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Nash and "Los Suns" made a political statement while staying focused enough to earn a victory. (AP Photo/Matt York)

PHOENIX — Wednesday night should have been all about basketball.

It should have been about your Phoenix Suns vanquishing their old foe the San Antonio Spurs the way the Spurs always used to beat them.

But it wasn’t.

Not in this politically-charged time in our state’s history, when the nation’s eyes are upon us not just because our great state happens to be hosting a hell of a basketball series but also because of the widespread support and opposition to Arizona’s new law aimed at cracking down on illegal immigration.

The Suns made their statement on Tuesday when owner Robert Sarver criticized the immigration law and then Suns players piled on by explicating their opposition to the bill.

It was a curious time to be making a political statement. The Suns at the time were on the precipice of the 2-0 home sweep that they ended up getting, preparing for a game that could make the difference between finally reversing their history against the Spurs and another summer of heartbreak.

This is not some game in mid-December against the Charlotte Bobcats, it was the biggest game for this franchise since Robert Horry splattered Steve Nash across the scorer’s table.

If the Suns would have lost, the criticism from a basketball perspective would have been undying, and when the Suns came out with an uninspired first-quarter effort and trailed by nine, I worried for Sarver.

Before the game, head coach Alvin Gentry promised that all this political talk would be no distraction to his team whatsoever, going into Rasheed Wallace mode when reporters continued to pepper him with questions about it.

“We are wearing the jerseys because it’s a national holiday …..” blah blah blah, Gentry repeated over and over, but thanks to Sarver’s Tuesday statement we know this was about so much more.

In the aftermath of the victory, the Suns ended up getting the best of both worlds. They got to make their statement yet they also got the victory this fan base so deeply craved.

“We talked about it yesterday as a team the whole situation and we just agreed we’d say what we had to say and once today came we were just focused on the game,” Grant Hill said. “I was totally unaware of what was going on. Certainly I knew there were some activities downtown, but I’ve got to guard Ginobili, I’ve got to have my mind right, so it is what it is and we did a good job of not letting all that become a distraction by focusing in on the mighty San Antonio Spurs.”

In my Tuesday article on this topic, I applauded the Suns for getting out in front of this issue and preventing the nation from turning against Phoenix after the D-backs saw visiting fans host anti-Arizona rallies when they visited last week.

However, I forgot that the polls show that more people support this measure than oppose it, something I certainly learned from my robust comments section of that story.

It must be heart-wrenching for staunch supporters of this bill to watch a team they love so dearly defeat a team they hate so much while wearing jerseys that symbolize opposition to a bill they so strongly support. This Game 2 win was honestly one of the greatest nights of the Nash Era, but some of these fans might not be able to enjoy it for political reasons. Not only do the Suns risk alienating these fans, but you’ve got to feel bad for fans wanting to boycott a team they care about so much.

As for actual boycotting, it was a late-arriving crowd, but after tip off it really filled up and was as loud if not louder than Game 1.

Before the game I ran into Jason Dittburner, a season-ticket holder since 2004-05, who was peeved about Sarver’s statement and general manager Steve Kerr’s comments in which he said the bill “rings up images of Nazi Germany.” I’m not sure if my grandparents who grew up in Nazi Germany would agree with that, and those are pretty unorthodox political comments for a GM to be making in the heat of a playoff run.

Dittburner, who had only heard of the Suns’ stance secondhand, said he was going to have a big problem if what he heard was true.

“I had people calling me saying, ‘Hey, go down there, throw your season tickets on the counter and say refund my money,’” he said. “This is ridiculous.”

Although I didn’t get quite as many as Alvin Gentry, my inbox was filled with opposition to the Suns’ stance as well.

Dale Goodno wrote, “The Suns are making a big mistake by supporting illegals in our country. They may lose a lot of fans since most Americans support Arizona’s law.”

David Maier wrote, “Play ball, stay out of politics. If your players want to voice their opinions on their own time that is great. Don’t do it as an organization.”

Ben Fillmore wrote, “If the Suns wish to get involved in Arizona’s politics then they need to be in the next election and let the folks of AZ vote and see if they want the Suns to get the hell out or stay and play for AZ.”

And finally, Don Newburn wrote, “I have been a loyal Suns fan for some time now. But your stand against the governor’s new law makes me sick.”

On the other side of things, Al Sharpton was presented with a “Los Suns” jersey while voicing his support of a boycott of Arizona (which I couldn’t disagree with more; the whole state should not be punished for this bill, and that is not the best way to try to get what you want), and President Obama even mentioned “Los Suns” while speaking earlier in the day.

As I scanned US Airways Center for signs of protest, I found Tony Mendez wearing a “Los Suns” jersey he just bought. Mendez said he understands that this bill is pissing off a lot of people but that the Latin community is so large that the Suns are smart to support it.

“I thought that was cool that they did that,” Mendez said. “That’s showing that they’re trying to support their Latin community.”

As much as we all joke about Sarver’s penchant for being cheap, I really doubt that there was any economic motive for making the statement he did. He’s risking pissing off too many customers to be doing something like this if it wasn’t for a cause he truly believed in.

“I’m proud of our owner for taking a stand,” Steve Nash said.

It is interesting that seemingly the entire Suns organization opposes the bill when the rest of the state is so split. You’ve got to think it’s possible somebody in the locker room and certainly a lower-ranking official in the organization supports it, and they might not be any happier than the average Joe Suns fan who feels betrayed by their favorite team.

I generally don’t like politics with my sports, especially on one of the biggest nights of the year for the team that I’ve been covering since the preseason opener against Partizan.

But speaking up for what you believe in — especially when you know you will be alienating half your fan base by doing so — is never easy, so the Suns should be commended for voicing their opinions while staying focused enough to pull out their biggest win in three years.

  • john marzan

    even before the suns came out against the bill, most of the protest organizers were avoiding the suns and focusing their anger and boycotts on the mediocre arizona diamondbacks.

    because they know protesting the playoff bound suns vs the hated spurs is going to backfire on them bigtime.

  • Jabari

    It must be heart-wrenching for staunch supporters of this bill to watch a team they love so dearly defeat a team they hate so while wearing jerseys that symbolize opposition to a bill they so strongly support.

    Sheesh, over-dramatize much? *grin*

    Yes, we support the bill. Yes, the statements from Nash and Kerr are unfortunate, but that's because they are misguided about what the bill really is.

    The supporters of the bill will keep trying to educate people and correct the many misconceptions that keep getting spread by the media (among others).

    The Governor's response on the main ESPN site should clear up most of what is worrying people – anyone against the bill (or in doubt) should go read that carefully to understand what is trying to be accomplished.

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  • Noel

    I've been a Suns fan since the 93 Finals run. Over the years my affection for the purple and orange has definitely had its moments of skepticism. However, since the beginning of the Steve Nash era, this team has represented how beautiful basketball can be and thus my love for the Phoenix Suns has only grown.

    I don't live in AZ anymore so I cannot watch as many games as I would like, but I read anything I can about the team. So when I read that Sarver was taking a stand on SB 1070, as the son of an immigrant father, I was proud to be a Suns fan.

    Wm you're an idiot. America stands for lots of things. Its a country where the sons and daughters of illegal immigrants born on US soil are instantly American citizens and granted rights. Unfortunately, even the right to say dumb shit on a blog. I am an American citizen and my freedom, like the freedom of other Mexican-Americans will be restricted by SB 1070.

    Even if this team never meet my Championship expectation, I will always be a proud supporter of "Los Suns."

  • Romina

    Why are people saying "we" support this law? I don't! My family doesn't and the majority of my friends–including myself–are appalled. My mother was an immigrant and on my father's side my great-grandparents immigrated here. My mother is Chilean and I identify strongly with my Latino roots. People who support that racist bill are trying to say that American means Anglo-Saxon. There are Mexican Americans in Arizona whose family heritage date to before white people immigrated there.

    Viva Los Suns!

  • j

    I think Noel has a valid point. We need to look no further than to the public outcry against speeding cameras to legitimize his argument. It seems like a far fetch at face value, but a closer look shows that the same arguments supporting SB1070 can be made for supporting speed cams. Essentially, they enforce a law that is already there, so if you don't like it, don't break the law. The argument both sides are making against this logic is that we are making a sacrifice in liberty; and as a result, both go too far. Trouble is, people are more likely to sympathize with one another on getting caught and paying speeding fines versus issues dealing with civil rights and misguided perceptions of immigrants.

  • Daniel

    The reason the diamondbacks caught flack where the Suns didn't is because Jerry Colangelo is the biggest Republican contributor in the state, not because of a playoff run you know-nothing. As for the writer, polls also show that most people want a legal route for them to stay which, as you may note, is a bit contradictory. Displayed beautifully is the fact that once again the people don't know what they want, or even what they're talking about (As evidenced by your message board). Sarver isn't standing with illegals, he's standing against the induction of police state, against overreaching government, and with the constitution

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  • j

    It’s debatable who is misguided in regards to the bill. Personally, I agree with Michael: I don’t usually like sports mixed with politics. Case in point, Tim Tebow’s Superbowl commercial. But I respected him for standing up for what he believed in. The Suns are doing the same, and I respect them for being able to do that as well.

  • Ray

    It was about vanquishing an old foe called Bigotry Hate and Naziism. Get your story straight.

  • Wm

    Illegal Immigration = loss of American freedom. I would like to know why our president is soo quick to sell out the american citizens? The president is a waste, anyone who supports the millions of illegal freeloaders, murderers, drug lords, thieves, rapists, and just no good pieces of shit, the president should be charged with treason and be dealt with. I love it when I hear someone say I support the opposition to the Arizona bill, that shows that person is a complete moron and doesn’t have a clue what America stands for.

  • Andrea

    I've followed the Suns for the past 15 + years, win or lose…I seldom missed a game and never missed a playoff game. However, after hearing and seeing the political stand with their new jersey's I'm rethinking my loyalty.

    I am not racist – I don't care for criminals no matter what they're race!! Let Steve & the other Suns support all the illegal immigrants, cause I'm tired of paying for their welfare, free food, free health care, etc. I've worked hard all my life to take care of my family, never had the free handouts they get by using MY money. My children did without many times as did I, but I always did things LEGALLY & am tired of working to support the people who don't bother to obey U.S., Arizona laws or any other laws.

  • Noel

    Just to be clear Andrea, you sound like a racist when you make sweeping untrue generalizations about a group of people.

    The Suns organization's stand on SB 1070 is not in support of illegal immigrants, it is in support of the AMERICANS who will be unduly affected by it.

    Like J said people have a hard time sympathizing on issues dealing with civil rights and misguided perceptions of immigrants.

  • Hayden

    Yeah, it is a weird that those who are so vehemently oppose big government are so passionately in support of a hugely intrusive and arbitrary government interventions into people’s lives. I guess it’s okay to have big government, so long as it doesn’t affect them.

  • john marzan

    The reason the diamondbacks caught flack where the Suns didn’t is because Jerry Colangelo is the biggest Republican contributor in the state, not because of a playoff run you know-nothing.

    Colangelo still owns the diamondbacks? didn’t he divest himself of his suns and diamondbacks assets?

  • john marzan

    And what has the ARizona diamondbacks got to do with the immigration bill?

  • john marzan

    well you know michael, as left wing nut david zirin of the Nation keeps reminding us, Jerry Colangelo is a Republican and republicans are evil.

  • http://valleyofthesuns.com Michael Schwartz

    Yeah, I believe Daniel may have been referring to Ken Kendrick? Although he then came out with a statement against the bill.

  • binkfooter

    At the end of the day no matter what Sarver and even Nash have said they have alienate there season ticket holders and long time Suns fans.

  • Wm

    Dirty stinking Mexicans need to get their no english speaking asses out of our country! All mexican, african, and all other hyphenated so called Americans, can all go back to their wonderful home country, and leave the U.S. for the rest of us that love our country and are proud just to be American!

  • Noel

    Wow! Thanks Wm you just displayed beautifully how much of an idiot you really are. So based on this ass backwards and racist theme you’re promoting are whites the only true Americans?

    Its unfortunate that someone of your intelligence is allowed to voice his opinion. Its easy to type comments on a blog, but I bet you lack the spine to make such comments in public where anyone of ordinary intelligence would likely point and laugh.

    The Suns may have alienated those who oppose SB 1070. That’s unfortunate, and as fans of the team those individuals have every right to voice their disappointment with the organization. As a person who grew up in Arizona, and who has family in the state, the legislators have alienated ME. The Suns decision to wear Los Suns was a symbol of the organization’s recognition that this is wrong.

    I’m glad the racist Suns fans have decided to end their allegiance.

  • Noel

    First sentence, third paragraph should read “those who support SB 1070.”

  • The Z. Man

    Right on Noel. Viva Los Suns!!!!

    Most "good Americans", as they call themselves, purport to be G-d fearing people. This supposed virtue is even more of an embarassment to G-d lovers, like myself, than it is to American values, such as that of free speech. Read the bible, you supposed "G-d fearers." What will you find? You will find that G-d does take a stand on this issue, but, I don't know how many of you "good, hard-working Americans" have ever (or even can ever) read a book, even the "Good Book." What you will find, if you are able to read, is that we are commanded to "treat the stranger like one of our own with one law that applies to us BOTH." Both means people of every nationality and every color of skin. We are all children of G-d and we are all children of Noah. Read further and we are told "because you shall remember that you were strangers in the land of Egypt." Just read your American history book. It will be enough to make any true human being puke. With a popular political slogan called "manifest destiny", the American government became a world wide disgrace by the genecide of millions of native and Mexican people who owned our land. Did we buy this land from them? Nope. With a policy as despicable and ugly as that of Nazi Germany, we stole this land. Does G-d condone stealing? Not only did we steal their land, but we raped their women and cold bloodedly murdered their kids. Does G-d condone murder and rape? Now, our same state that would not commerorate Martin Luther King (until economically forced to do so), further demonstrates its hateful and despicable ways. This is a human and moral matter, not a political one. Grow up, you haters!!!!

    Suns have a Latin American player known as Leandro Barbosa. Gentry has known him ever since he took an assistant coaching role with the Suns. LB is loved by other players on our team. However, Majerle, the racist, has been holding Barbosa back. Suns will be even better with more playing time given to our Brazilian Blur.

    MUST start and also finish with LB. Let's go SUNS!!!!