SBD/Issue 163/Franchises

Around 3,000 Protesters March Outside "Los Suns" Game In Phoenix

Suns' Wearing Of "Los Suns" Jerseys Draws
Attention From Fans, Media, President

Around 3,000 protesters "respectfully marched by US Airways Center" over Arizona's new immigration law during last night's Spurs-Suns Western Conference Semifinals Game Two, in which the Suns wore their "Los Suns" jerseys, but "inside the arena, fans treated the game like any other," according to Paola Boivin of the ARIZONA REPUBLIC. The protesters outside alternately shouted "yes, we can" and "let's go, Suns." Inside the arena, "on one side of the court sat a fan in a Suns jersey and sombrero," and "on the other side was a man with a 'shut up and play' sign" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 5/6). In Phoenix, Craig Harris reports one "outraged fan" said that she "shredded her four lower-level tickets to Wednesday's game ... in protest" of the Suns' decision. The Arizona Republic yesterday received "84 letters to the editor," 79 of which were opposed to the move. The decision "got the attention of President Barack Obama, who made reference to the jerseys Wednesday in a Cinco de Mayo celebration at the White House." The move also "got the attention of conservative radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh, who called the move sad and shortsighted." Suns President & CEO Rick Welts said that the team "has no plans to wear the 'Los Suns' jerseys for the rest of the best-of-seven-game series with the Spurs" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 5/6). Limbaugh said the Suns' decision to wear the "Los Suns" jerseys was "cowardice, pure and simple" (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 5/6).

TEAMS DISTANCE THEMSELVES FROM ISSUE: In N.Y., Billy Witz notes the "topic of Los Suns jerseys was one that both coaches sought to distance themselves from." Spurs coach Gregg Popovich "strongly supported" Suns Managing Partner Robert Sarver on Tuesday regarding the jerseys, but 90 minutes before tip-off last night he said, "Now it's game time. I'm not running for office, just coaching." Suns coach Alvin Gentry: "We're wearing these jerseys just because it's a national holiday, it's Cinco de Mayo. We're wearing it because of the diversity we have in the state of Arizona, and we're wearing it because of the diversity in the NBA" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/6).

APPLAUDING THE MOVE: In Sacramento, Ailene Voisin writes the "Los Suns" jerseys were a "simple, brilliant and immensely powerful form of nonviolent protest" that was a "smashing success long before tipoff." Voisin: "Kudos to Sarver ... for coming up with the idea and enlisting his players' support before moving forward. His club's willingness to visit such potentially treacherous terrain is both daring and appropriate given the league's progressive history regarding civil rights and social issues" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 5/6). ESPN.com's Jackie MacMullan said, "The owner made a political stance, but the team is saying, 'We just want to support these people.' This is a very sensitive issue. I think it makes sense." She added the team is "not wearing a shirt that says, 'Down with the immigration bill.' They're just simply wearing a shirt that supports the Latino community" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 5/5). In Boston, Charles Pierce wrote, "Good for the Phoenix Suns for stepping up, and even better for Steve Nash to be so open and honest about why" (BOSTON.com, 5/5). In Phoenix, E.J. Montini writes, "Whether you agree with the Suns' decision or not, you should be proud of them for taking a stand and for doing so the right way. No wavering. No dancing around the issues. It took guts. It showed heart" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 5/6).

Media Members Disagree If Nash, Suns' Decision
To Wear "Los Suns" Jerseys Right Thing To Do

SHOULD SPORTS AND POLITICS MIX? L.A. Times columnist Bill Plaschke said, "I agree with the Suns' sentiment. I don't agree with what they're doing. I think sports and politics … should not mix. That's why the Olympics has lasted so many years because they don't let it mix." Plaschke: "Sports should be above and beyond the political sphere of things" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 5/5). New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson said, "I don't think there's need for putting politics into sports." Sacramento Bee columnist Marcos Breton: "None of us would like politics to be injected into sports, but the bottom line is sports are political" ("Outside The Lines," ESPN, 5/5). In West Palm Beach, Dave George writes, "Like it or not, there always will be a connection between sports and politics, if only because these crazy games of ours are played and enjoyed by political animals. Human beings, in other words" (PALM BEACH POST, 5/6). ESPN's Michael Wilbon: "Politics and sports should perhaps not mix, but they do mix and usually players are simply pawns" ("PTI," ESPN, 5/5).

CAN'T TOTALLY SEPARATE THE TWO: In DC, Mike Wise writes when political issues "so pervade a community, a sports franchise -- from the owner to the players -- can't pretend they are somehow above or below the fray." Sports franchises "have never been separate from the communities in which they reside, and they have become even more entwined over the years as they have skyrocketed in value." Sarver "in effect was making a choice no matter what action he took," and "doing nothing would have been silent acquiescence" to the new law (WASHINGTON POST, 5/6).

THE LIGHTER SIDE: NBC's Jay Leno touched on the Suns' situation during his "Tonight Show" monologue last night, saying, "Tonight, to protest Arizona's new immigration law, the Phoenix Suns are all wearing jerseys that read 'Los Suns.' Thankfully, they were able to get the jerseys made quickly using an illegal sweat shop, but they were able to turn them out. Talk about making a point. The Phoenix Suns are wearing jerseys written in Spanish, made in China, modeled after their best player, Canadian Steve Nash. That is America!" ("The Tonight Show," NBC, 5/5).

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