Opinion: Los Suns: Phoenix basketball team’s protest of Arizona immigration law brings cheers, jeers

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Every year, the Phoenix Suns wear jerseys that say “Los Suns” for the NBA’s “Noche Latina” program. This year, the jerseys served a more political purpose.

In announcing the Suns would wear their Spanish jerseys last night for Game 2 against the San Antonio Spurs -- which coincided with Cinco de Mayo -- Suns owner Robert Sarver said, “Our players and organization felt that wearing our ‘Los Suns’ jerseys on Cinco de Mayo was a way for our team and our organization to honor our Latino community and the diversity of our league, the state of Arizona, and our nation … “ Then he delivered his pretty apt political assessment, blaming the federal government:


The frustration with the federal government’s failure to deal with the issue of illegal immigration resulted in passage of a flawed state law. However intended, the result of passing this law is that our basic principles of equal rights and protection under the law are being called into question, and Arizona’s already struggling economy will suffer even further setbacks at a time when the state can ill-afford them.

As star Steve Nash put it, the Arizona law “really damages our civil liberties. I think it opens up the potential for racial profiling and racism. ... It represents our state poorly in the eyes of the nation and the world.”

Not everyone was happy. Conservative blogger Michelle Malkin, noting that Sarver’s banks took $140 million in TARP funds, suggested the team be called Los Moochers. And one outraged fan told the Arizona Republic that she shredded her four lower-level tickets to Wednesday’s game in protest. Another fan, Roger Gibbard, who said he has been a Suns fan since 1981, wrote a letter to the paper, saying he was “very unhappy, and I don’t think they should get involved.”

Perhaps the unintended subtext of this jersey protest might be to prove S. I. Hayakawa right. A long time ago, the California linguist (and U.S. senator) warned that unless the federal government made English the country’s official language, it would lead to a breakdown in civility -- and a preference for Spanish.

By the way, Los Suns defeated San Antonio, 110-102, to take a 2-0 lead in their Western Conference semifinal series. And just for the record, shouldn’t it be, Los Soles?

-- Johanna Neuman

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