NPR logo Phoenix (Los) Suns Wade Into Immigration Fight


Phoenix (Los) Suns Wade Into Immigration Fight

Corporations tend to be risk-averse, especially when it comes to wading into issues as controversial as Arizona's new law meant to crack down on illegal immigration.

But that hasn't stopped the NBA's Phoenix Suns from entering the fray. The team's managing partner, Robert Sarver, publicly criticized the new law and reportedly had the support of all the players on the team.

The team didn't stop there. On Wednesday evening, the team plans to have its players wear jerseys bearing its name in Spanish — Los Suns — during their playoff game against the San Antonio Spurs.

It's in part to mark Cinqo de Mayo, the Mexican holiday, and partly to show solidarity for Hispanics, many of whom believe the law will be used to racially profile even those who are in the U.S. legally.

The Arizona Republic reports:

The gesture, which came with the blessing of the NBA and the league's players union, reflects Sarver's belief that passing Senate Bill 1070 was not "the right way to handle the immigration problem, Number 1," he said. "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."

Arizona sports teams and events have become targets for protests and calls for boycotts since SB 1070 was signed into law by Gov. Jan Brewer on April 23.

The law makes it a state crime to be in Arizona without proper documents and requires local police to check the legal status of suspected undocumented immigrants.

Sarver's decision is the first time a state sports entity has taken a public stand on the law, which is scheduled to go into effect in about 90 days.

"We think it's appropriate what the Suns are doing," NBA Commissioner David Stern told in Orlando.

The players union applauded the Suns' move, saying in a statement Tuesday that Arizona's new law is "disappointing and disturbing."

Again, one of the most noteworthy aspects about all of this is that the businesses, especially those that rely on public image, tend to not want to take stands that could be unpopular with some of their customer base.

And several polls indicate that a majority of Americans support the Arizona law which suggests that the Suns could be spitting into the wind to a degree.

A message on the Suns' Planet Orange discussion board underscores why most for-profit concerns attempt to give political matters a wide berth:

As a former Suns and NBA fan, I would suggests you go all the way and call yourselves "Los Soles", move to Tucson or better yet Nogales! What gives you the right to get involved in Arizona politics? you are all "mercenaries" you follow the money wherever they take you. this issue is for Arizonans, and they have spoken 70% of us did! you are so out of touch with reality from your super mansions, your range rovers, and surrounded by people kissing your collective arses! I used to watch your games for sheer entertainment, no longer will nor would I support your endorsers. By the way Mr Sarver; you should really issue free tickets to all the illegal aliens who wants to attend the play-off games, you will have the arena pretty full in no time, ah but not revenue, except from burritos and nachos! If you don't like our laws, pack up and get out, life will go on in Arizona without you! Adios

Also, some observers believe the jerseys should really say Los Soles, to be accurate. But as some have noted, maybe that was too uncomfortably close to "lost souls."