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NBA Playoffs Are Not A Place For Politics

Posted on May 5 2010 4:00 pm
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Last week I attended a Milwaukee Bucks NBA playoff game; not until today did I realize how lucky we were to avoid a civics discussion. Yesterday, the Phoenix Suns team revealed that they are going to be wearing alternative jerseys on Wednesday night with the name “Los Suns” in protest of Arizona’s new immigration crackdown.

As a lifelong fan of the NBA, it is extremely aggravating to live in a hyper-political culture and continue enduring self-righteous leftist lectures during the playoffs. Naturally we all have opinions, including NBA players and staff, but why can’t we leave it out of the game? Sports events are places where people of all walks of life and political views are able to come together and share a common interest. Politicizing the NBA is a slippery maneuver that will only divide the fans.

Robert Sarver, a Phoenix Suns managing partner commented on the situation:

“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.”

Some players like Suns all-star guard Steve Nash says the law promotes “opportunities for racial profiling,” while Suns general manager Steve Kerr wants to make sure the public knows that “this isn’t a huge political stand as much as it is just a celebration of diversity.” We could believe Kerr’s statement if there wasn’t so much controversy over Arizona’s recent immigration decision. By unnecessarily bringing politics into the NBA arena, the Suns as well as the league that backs them is stepping out of their element to fuel political warfare.

The NBA Players Association has also came out in support of the Suns:

“We applaud the actions of Phoenix Suns players and management and join them in taking a stand against the misguided efforts of Arizona lawmakers. We are consulting with our members and our player leadership to determine the most effective way for our union to continue to voice our opposition to this legislation.”

This certainly doesn’t sound like “celebrating diversity,” as Kerr asserted was the primary motive. There is a clear agenda at play here, but that isn’t the problem. An NBA playoff game is not the time or place for political debate. The purpose is to promote a sport that should be able to transcend public policy controversies.

Legendary Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson, who has expressed liberal views in the past, does not approve of the Suns peaceful protest:

“I don’t think teams should get involved in the political stuff. And I think this one’s still kind of coming out to balance as to how it’s going to be favorably looked upon by our public. If I heard it right the American people are really for stronger immigration laws, if I’m not mistaken. Where we stand as basketball teams, we should let that kind of play out and let the political end of that go where it’s going to go.”

We should commend Jackson for taking a stand on what he feels is right for the league that he has been an influential part of for decades. It is good to know that there are people in the NBA that realize not only that there are two sides to the issue but also that it isn’t a team’s responsibility to get into politics on the court. If the NBA can no longer leave politics out of the game, it will most definitely lose more than it can afford to.

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