Skip to comments.Republicans Buy Sneakers, Too
Posted on 05/22/2010 8:03:55 AM PDT by Extremely Extreme Extremist
A popular sentiment shared among members of the sports community is that politics and sports should not mix. After all, with the vast investment of Corporate America, astronomical ticket pricing and multi-billion dollar television contracts, it is simply safer and financially more lucrative to accept the status quo than to challenge it.
The Phoenix Suns recently rejected this logic during their 2nd round playoff series versus the San Antonio Spurs. Before Game 2 of the Western Conference Semi-Finals versus their post-season nemesis, the Suns took advantage of their media spotlight to show support for the Latino community. Owner Robert Sarver approached his players about wearing their Los Suns jerseys for two reasons: 1) in honor of Cinco de Mayo and 2) as a sign of disapproval for the newly passed Immigration Law. In a show of solidarity, Sarver received the overwhelming support of his players and coaches, as well as by the Spurs (who wanted to wear Los Spurs jerseys, but could not get them ready in time for the game).
Known as Senate Bill 1070, this law is intended to target illegal immigrants by giving the police the authority to question and arrest any individual they suspect to be in the country illegally. In reality however, critics argue that this bill is unconstitutional, as it simply allows and encourages racial profiling by targeting the states large Hispanic community.
Historically speaking, this is not the first time that the Arizona Legislature has demonstrated racial narrow-mindedness. In 1987, then Arizona Governor Evan Mecham rescinded a bill to recognize Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The bill was once again snubbed when voters revisited the matter in 1990. Met with intense scrutiny across the nation, the NFL and its Players Association decided to move the venue of Super Bowl XXVII from Tempe, Arizona to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.
Similar opposition has been pouring out with the enactment of SB 1070. President Obama has been quite critical of the bill, while Hispanic members of Congress and neighbouring states Texas, New Mexico and California -- all with large Latino populations -- have questioned its legitimacy. The Los Angeles City Council has even gone as far as to vote a boycott of doing business with the state of Arizona (Editors note: where does this leave the Los Angeles Lakers who play the Suns in the Western Conference Finals?)
The NBA has indeed become more diverse over the past two decades and by endorsing the Suns' Los Suns jerseys, the NBA and their Players Association took a significant and much needed social stance. In a recent interview on ESPN, the captain and star of the team, Steve Nash, spoke out against the bill: I'm against it. I think that this is a bill that really damages our civil liberties. I think that it opens up the potential for racial profiling, (and) racism. I think that it's a bad precedence to set for our young people. It represents our state poorly in the eyes of the rest of our nation and the world. I think that we have a lot of great attributes here and I think that it's something that we can do without; and hopefully we can change a lot in the coming weeks.
It is easy to see where Nash differs from many of his peers in the spotlight. Rather than side stepping the issue, Nash took advantage of his elevated status to address the issue; with a bit more diplomacy than Kanye declaring after Hurricane Katrina that George Bush doesnt care about black people but with just as much of the social weight. Not to over-hype the importance of the NBA's influence over America's youth, but just think back on what hip-hop did for Obama's 2008 Presidential Campaign -- it sparked unprecedented interest and voter turnout amongst the youth of America. Similarly, the NBA could very well end up being responsible for a socially-charged youth response by taking a public stance on SB 1070.
At the same time, let us not forget that during periods of extreme unrest and conflict in the civil arena, sports was used as a great means to spark conversation and social change. In the past three decades, athletes have bartered social responsibility for corporate functionality. Rightly or wrongly, the games top performers have agreed to take the highroad as it pertains to social and political ills, in exchange for corporate immunity. We need not look further than to the greatest basketball player of all time, Michael Jordan. The way in which Jordan transcended the game of basketball was evident both on and off the court. Growing up, pretty much every kid who stepped onto the court wanted to "Be Like Mike". While Jordan's heart and determination on the court was never questioned, his silence off it has been. His allegiance to Corporate America (i.e. Nike, Gatorade, McDonalds, etc) has continually outweighed just about everything else, as evidenced during the 1990 Senate race in his home state of North Carolina, where Jordan refused to endorse Democratic nominee Harvey Gantt over the ultra-conservative racial bigot Jesse Helms, famously stating that "Republicans buy sneakers, too."
For better or for worse, we have come a long way since the days of Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown and other social activists, all in the name of fame and celebrity.
Perhaps it is unfair to expect our athletes to be publicly invested in the social and political wrongs of our culture. Some would argue that it does not matter what stance Michael Jordan takes on the War in Iraq or the Health Care Debate. After all as a performer, he was paid to do two things: win and entertain - both of which he did better than anyone else.
However, it is irresponsible and naive to suggest that politics and sports (or entertainment for that matter) do not mix. Senate Bill 1070 is an example of that. This is not a Democrat versus Republican issue; it is a right versus wrong issue. And in any arena, civil or sport, racial profiling and discrimination must be addressed.
Steve Nash? Isn’t he Canadian? Is he here legally? Wonder if he needs a work visa? :-)
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