Thursday, May 6, 2010

Los Suns, united in protest

Forward Taylor Griffith

Yesterday was Cinco di Mayo, and last night the Phoenix Suns made a sartorial gesture of solidarity with the Latino community by wearing "Los Suns" jerseys. 

A sizable chunk of the national spotlight was shining on the Suns as they took to their home court at Phoenix's U.S. Airways Center. They were playing the San Antonio Spurs, in game #2 of  round #2 of the endless NBA playoffs. As Arizona Republic sports columnist E.J. Montini saw it,
We all know that politics and sports 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.
Further on in Montini's column, he writes of Mr. Sarver,
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."
I cannot think of a comparable political gesture by a major sports organization. Sports is big business; protest is risky business. As Michael Jordan famously put it when he declined to endorse Democrat Harvey Gantt in his 1990 attempt to unseat Republican Senator Jesse Helms, "Republicans buy sneakers, too."

And Los Suns donned their protest jerseys as Arizona's senior senator, John McCain, continues to voice his strong support for the new law, going on Fox News's O'Reilly Factor to claim that illegal immigrants are deliberately staging car accidents.

Mr. Sarver's quietly public protest (that's him pictured left) reminds me of the time in 1947 when much beloved white baseball player Peewee Reese walked over to the first black baseball player, Jackie Robinson, and put his arm around the man's shoulder.

Except, of course, that Mr. Sarver has a lot more money at stake.

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