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In front of millions

‘Los Suns’ stand with immigrant community

Published May 15, 2010 8:43 AM

As the Boycott Arizona movement continues to resonate throughout the U.S. in response to the racist, anti-immigrant Senate Bill 1070, sports world figures are taking a unique and progressive stand. On May 5 — recognized as Cinco de Mayo, a Mexican holiday — the National Basketball Association team the Phoenix Suns decided to show their opposition to the racist bill by wearing jerseys emblazoned with “Los Suns.”

Steve Nash

The players wore the jerseys during a semifinal Western Conference playoff game with the San Antonio Spurs in Phoenix. Some fans held up signs saying “Viva Los Suns” and “Los Fans.”

This act gained national and international attention, with high-profile Suns’ players like Amare Stoudemire and Steve Nash making public statements about why this act of solidarity was so important.

Amare Stoudemire

Stoudemire, who is African American, stated, “It’s going to be great to wear Los Suns to let the Latin community know we’re behind them 100 percent.” (thenation.com/blog, May 5) During postgame comments following the Suns’ victory over the Spurs, Nash, who is white and was raised in Canada, stated that it was important to take a stand against “racial profiling” and “racism.” (NBA TV, May 5) Nash was the first NBA player to come out against the war on Iraq in 2003.

The Spurs head coach, Gregg Popovich and his team, publicly supported the Suns’ actions.

On the same evening, African-American civil rights leader the Rev. Al Sharpton helped lead an immigrant rights march of thousands, which passed by the U.S. Airways Arena where the Suns were playing on its way to a closing rally at the state Capitol. Sharpton and Latino/a representatives were wearing Los Suns jerseys as they linked arms.

TNT, which was airing the Suns-Spurs game live, cut away from the game briefly to an aerial shot of the march, which was both a welcome surprise and unprecedented during a major U.S. sports event viewed by millions of people.

Prior to the May 5 game, three retired African-American basketball players expressed support for the Suns’ actions and the march on TNT’s “Inside the NBA” show. Kenny Smith stated, “I think it’s great that the team understands, the management understands, and now the people of Phoenix are all rallying together at the same time.”

Charles Barkley, a former Suns player, said, “The Hispanic community — they’re like the fabric of the cloth. They’re part of our community.”

Chris Webber chimed in: “Public Enemy said it a long time ago — ‘By the Time I Get to Arizona.’ I’m not surprised. They didn’t even want there to be a Martin Luther King Day when John McCain was in office. So if you follow history you know that this is part of Arizona politics.” (Dave Zirin, “Edge of Sports”)

Protesting the Diamondbacks

What the Suns did on May 5 comes on the heels of a mushrooming protest movement against Major League Baseball’s Arizona Diamondbacks team. The Diamondbacks have faced protests outside of stadiums during their road games in Chicago and Houston. Future protests are scheduled for Atlanta, Denver and other cities.

While team owner Ken Kendrick says that he personally “opposes the bill,” progressive sports columnist Dave Zirin exposed in his May 10 “Edge of Sports” article that Kendrick is organizing a fundraising party in his private box at the Diamondbacks’ stadium on May 20 for State Senator Jonathan Paton. Paton is a well-known supporter of SB 1070, who has said, “We need to secure the border, and we need to secure it now. That’s why I voted for SB 1070, and that’s why I urge the governor to sign it.” (thenation.com/blog)

This anti-immigrant bill will have the heaviest impact on MLB, since nearly 30 percent of professional baseball players are from Latin America and the Caribbean. This means that if the bill goes into effect in August these players can be stopped at any time by the police, detained and fined if they don’t have “proper” identification or papers.

The MLB Players Association is putting pressure on Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig to have the 2011 All-Star game moved from Phoenix to another locale if the bill is not repealed.

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, who speaks on behalf of big business interests, wrote a defensive, racist column for the world’s largest sports enterprise, ESPN, on May 5 trying to explain why an economic boycott was “misguided” and why a “secure” border was needed.

In the entertainment world, on ABC’s popular talk show “The View” on May 6, co-host Whoopi Goldberg wore the “Los Suns” jersey. Gael Garcia Bernal, a Mexican actor who played Che Guevara in “The Motorcycle Diaries,” said that the Arizona bill is “illegal” and will promote “racial and cultural discrimination.” (Prensa Latina, May 4)