As a Lakers fan, I usually don’t applaud the Phoenix Suns — a rival in the West. But tonight I do. The Suns wore jerseys that read “Los Suns” while beating the San Antonio Spurs to take a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference semifinals. The team’s owner, Robert Sarver, wanted to send a message to the Arizona legislature:
The frustration with the federal government’s failure to deal with the issue of illegal immigration resulted in passage of a flawed [Arizona] 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.
The political gesture also caught the attention of President Obama. Speaking to a crowd in the Rose Garden for a Cinco de Mayo reception,
“I know that a lot of you would rather be watching tonight’s game — the Spurs against ‘Los Suns’ from Phoenix,” Obama said. He also added that “I want to begin work this year, and I want Democrats and Republicans to work with me — because we’ve got to stay true to who we are, a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants.”
San Antonio might have done the same if they had enough time to make “Los Spurs” jerseys, according to coach Gregg Popovich.
NBA commisioner David Stern supported the move. And the NBA Players Association not only backed the Suns, but released an even stronger statement criticizing the nation’s toughest immigration law:
“The recent passage of the new immigration law in Arizona is disappointing and disturbing,” said Billy Hunter, executive director of the NBAPA. “The National Basketball Players Association strongly supports the repeal or immediate modification of this legislation. Any attempt to encourage, tolerate or legalize racial profiling is offensive and incompatible with basic notions of fairness and equal protection. A law that unfairly targets one group is ultimately a threat to all.
The Lakers, of course, have been doing their part even before Arizona’s immigration law, by calling themselves “Los Angeles” Lakers.