May 5th, 2010
10:30 AM ET

Immigration takes center court at Suns-Spurs playoffs

The Phoenix Suns will once again don their "Los Suns" jersey -- this time in response to Arizona's new immigration law.

It’s not often point guards and power forwards partake in politics.

Responding to a recently passed immigration policy in Arizona, the Phoenix Suns will take the court Wednesday in jerseys bearing their name in Spanish.

Robert Sarver, owner of “Los Suns,” said his team will wear the jerseys during Game Two of its playoff matchup with the San Antonio Spurs, which falls on the Mexican holiday, Cinco de Mayo.

“We are proud that 400 players from 36 countries compete in the NBA, and the league and the Suns have always considered that to be a great strength of the NBA,” he said in a statement.

The move was designed, in part, to honor Phoenix’s Latino community, Sarver said.

The Suns also have a Latin-born player, guard Leandro Barbosa of Brazil. He is one of the NBA’s 18 players from Latin America. Hispanics compose about 15 percent of the NBA’s market, according to the league.

The new immigration law, which goes into effect in August, allows police in Arizona to demand proof of residency. Critics say the law encourages racial profiling. Proponents say it’s a necessary response to stem the tide of illegal immigrants flowing into the state.

The Suns’ protest was roundly supported by NBA players and officials, according to an NBA.com report.

NBA Commissioner David Stern called the move “appropriate.” The NBA Players Association also praised the protest as NBAPA Executive Director Billy Hunter called the immigration law “offensive and incompatible with the basic notions of fairness and equal protection.”

Added star point guard Steve Nash: “Obviously the passing of the recent bill and what that means to our state, to civil liberties, and the quality and precedent it’s setting, and message it sends to our youngsters in the community, we have a problem with that. It's great that our owner took the initiative and our players are behind him.”

In an interview with Sports Illustrated’s Dan Patrick, the always outspoken Charles Barkley said the immigration law offended him, both as an African-American and as a resident of Arizona. He suggested the policy was merely a political ploy.

“Most of those immigrants here are busting their hump, doing a great job, and to go after them every couple of years because you want to raise hell doing something to get re-elected, that’s disrespectful and disgusting,” he said.

Despite that the Spurs will do battle with the Suns at 8 p.m. ET, at least one San Antonio player was able to find solidarity with his rivals.

Argentina-born guard Manu Ginobili said he hopes Arizona can find another way to deal with its immigration woes.

“I hope they change [the law] back to what it was and give the workers the possibility to be legal and pay taxes as everyone else,” he told NBA.com.

Wednesday won’t be the first time the NBA has honored the Latino community. In March, the league held Noche Latina (Latin Night), with Los Lakers, the Knicks of Nueva York, Miami’s El Heat and Dallas’ Los Mavs among nine teams wearing Spanish-language jerseys.

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  1. Michelle

    While I agree that they have the right to free speech, I don't think that the basketball court is the place for it. As for all of this talk of racial profiling, etc, etc..... I live near Boston, where there are a lot of illegal immigrants from Ireland (and yes, I know that a lot of them illegal because I actually know a lot of them personally). If they were to enact a similar law in Massachusetts I can guarantee it would be anyone with an English, Irish, or Scottish accent that would be asked for ID. But since Arizona is a popular location for Mexicans that is how it plays out down there. Illegal is illegal, whether you're from Ireland, Mexico, or any other country. I understand the reasons why people come here illegally, but the bottom line is, it's still illegal.

    May 6, 2010 at 7:15 am | Report abuse |
  2. Chris

    So... Steve Nash comes to the U.S. and makes millions
    But... he sure enjoys slamming the same country that made him rich.
    Send him back to Canada!!!!

    May 6, 2010 at 7:18 am | Report abuse |
  3. DCP From TX

    Seems to me if we have to have a "Separation of Church and State", we need to separate "Sports form Illegal Immigration". Folks, we are not talking about people who followed the law in order to enter this country, they broke the law. I don't care if the entire NBA is made up of Mexicans, as long as they either become citizens legally or as many do, retain their native citizenship. It's not a matter of whether or not they are legal – they are not. To give them amnesty is a "slap in the face" to all that went through the process. I guess if enough people want to commit other crimes, we can say we need to change the system so what they do is no longer a crime, or just tell them we forgive whatever they have done and go our merry way.

    Talk about destroying a country. Obama has done in roughly a year and a half what the Russians couldn't do in decades. As Nikita Kruschev once said as he pounded the podium, "We will destroy you (America) from within". Maybe we should trace Obama's bloodline – might be a little Russian in there somewhere.

    May 6, 2010 at 7:22 am | Report abuse |
  4. Socratic Buzz

    The working poor American nationals should so much say as a couple of bourgeois 25 year old millionaires pimping their profiles to propagate their half-baked, dim-witted, poorly thought out opinion.

    May 6, 2010 at 7:56 am | Report abuse |
  5. Hitobito

    Chris: If Steve Nash left the Phoenix Suns, they would not make the playoffs. He is the MVP of the Suns and without him, they are toast. He wouldn't need to return to Canada...he could make more money playing for any other NBA team in the league. You obviously have never watched this All Star guard play! He may be the best point guard to ever play the game!

    May 6, 2010 at 8:24 am | Report abuse |
  6. Howard

    Hopefully "Los Seats" will now be empty!

    May 6, 2010 at 8:28 am | Report abuse |
  7. Kim

    I support the Arizona law wholeheartedly. I doubt any of these athletes know what it is like to live along the border and deal with the drug runners and others who are coming across. People who are in the U.S. illegally have broken our laws and should be caught and deported. People who are in the U.S. legally have nothing to fear. The media is feeding the frenzy and should be ashamed for losing (if they ever had it) their objectivity. I've seen very little coverage of the other perspective.

    May 6, 2010 at 8:34 am | Report abuse |
  8. madashell

    And another group of millionaires add their names to the list wanting to keep labor rates cheap.

    May 6, 2010 at 8:34 am | Report abuse |
  9. eric

    Team /players have every right to get involved,besides americans get into their personal lives.

    May 6, 2010 at 8:36 am | Report abuse |
  10. Randall of Texas

    Carol Costello, is that Congressman Serrano saying that there are illegal immigrants playing professional baseball?

    May 6, 2010 at 8:36 am | Report abuse |
  11. Jennifer

    I agree with Los Sons. They have the right to state their thoughts. There are many Latino sport players and these teams are supporting their teammates.

    May 6, 2010 at 8:59 am | Report abuse |
  12. Really

    DCP ~~Obama has destroyed the country in a year and a half? Let's not forget the money that was diverted to begin an unnecessary war. That money could of been used to fix our country instead of chasing some imaginary weapons of mass destruction....Unless you count suicide bombers as the weapons...I guess he did find some...

    May 6, 2010 at 9:00 am | Report abuse |
  13. T. L. Moore

    This is ridiculous. No one is saying that they don't like people from Latin America; they just need to be here LEGALLY. The multi-millionaire NBA and former NBA players aren't the ones losing jobs to illegal immigrants.

    Plus, how can you justify paying taxes to support someone (those taxes fund illegal's health care) who doesn't contribute taxes into the system their self?

    May 6, 2010 at 9:11 am | Report abuse |
  14. FH

    I don't know why anyone has a problem with a law that deals with something that is ILLEGAL unless they themselves are lawbreakers and/or do not know the difference between right and wrong. It is not surprising that some NBA players do not agree with the LAW since they have expressed a past disdain for it anyway. If they were paid what they should be paid ($100,000.00/year or less), they might see things a little differently. If you want to play politics, do it outside of the sports arena or you might not have anyone inside to watch!

    May 6, 2010 at 9:12 am | Report abuse |
  15. Zuloo

    These NBA

    May 6, 2010 at 9:15 am | Report abuse |
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