Suns to Wear 'Los Suns' Jerseys in Protest of Arizona's Immigration Law
PHOENIX -- When it comes to home team signage inside the US Airways Center, the "Los Suns" jerseys that Phoenix will wear for Game 2 Wednesday night are mild by comparison.
After all, this is the same venue where a front row Phoenix fanatic donned a fake Spurs jersey for Game 1 that read "The San Antonio Sucks."
But the Suns' decision to don their Spanish language tops is infinitely more inflammatory because of what it will represent, a stance that owner Robert Sarver made abundantly clear in a statement released to the media Tuesday. The move -- which, by no coincidence, will unfold on Cinco de Mayo -- is a direct response to the recent passing of Arizona immigration law SB1070.
"The frustration with the federal government's failure to deal with the issue of illegal immigration resulted in passage of a flawed state law," Sarver's statement read. "However intended, the result of passing the 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."
While all involved emphasized that this is as much a "celebration of diversity" as much as it was a political statement, Suns general manager Steve Kerr took the issue head on after Wednesday's practice just as Sarver had before him.
"We just felt it was important because we're in the public eye, and because this has become a national issue," Kerr said. "We have a huge Latino population here [in Arizona], and there's a lot of controversy, a lot of discussion on both sides, and we just wanted to make sure we made our little say.
"And that is that we celebrate the 43 different countries that are celebrated by NBA players, we celebrate the diversity that exists in our state, in our country, and we hope that at least people will stop and think about the bill and what it means to them and give it some thought."
As the Suns see it, it's a bill that had no business being passed.
"There's two sides to the issue, there's a lot of gray areas and there's going to be a lot of differing opinions on both sides," Kerr continued. "And we're not trying to make a huge stand on one side, we're just saying the law the way it's written we don't really agree with, especially as it relates to human rights issues. And what we're trying to do is just show our fans here in Arizona and show the nation that we're concerned about it.
"We know that we're in the news right now, we're in the limelight, so we didn't want to just sit back. ... Some people may think that it's not our job to take a political stance, but we feel like because we're in the public eye and in the nation's eye, it's important to raise the issue and do what we can and further the discussion where we can."
Kerr said the idea was first discussed after the Suns' Game 6 win on Thursday in Portland closed out their first-round series. Sarver took the lead, which led to "meetings the last couple days, management meetings with five or six people involved," Kerr said. The Suns then sought approval from the NBA, which must be consulted on all matters of apparel alteration.
But in a sign that they truly are united on this front, Kerr said the Suns' players themselves had to grant their permission before they proceeded.
"We didn't want this to be a distraction, so we left the call up to them," said Kerr, who noted his team has players from Slovenia (Goran Dragic), Brazil (Leandro Barbosa) and Canada (Steve Nash). "If they didn't want to do this, then we would not have done it. But they feel very strongly about it as well."
Nash called the bill "very misguided" as well.
"I think [the Suns' stance] is fantastic," Nash said. "I think the law is, uh, very misguided. I think it's unfortunately to the detriment of our society and our civil liberties, and I think it's really important for us to stand up for things we believe in.
"As a team and an organization, we have a lot of love and support for all of our fans. The league is very multicultural. We have players from all over the world, and our Latino community here is very strong and important to us. I think that's where the law obviously can target opportunities for racial profiling, for things that we don't want to see and we don't need to see -- especially in 2010."
Asked if he felt the law reflected poorly on Arizona, Nash agreed.
"It doesn't feel good to have people around the world and around the country look at our state as less than equal, less than fair," Nash said. "As a proud citizen of the state, I want us to be held in the highest of esteem. ... I think we need to be very cautious in how we respect our civil liberties, and the tone we're setting and the precedent we're setting going forward."
Kerr added that the Spurs were willing to take part as well, but their "Los Spurs" jerseys are home white and they must wear road black on Wednesday.
"This was very well-thought," Kerr said. "It wasn't just something we threw out there."
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