[News] Los Suns Also Rise: Phoenix Suns Win in More Ways Than One

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Fri May 7 11:09:32 EDT 2010

Los Suns Also Rise: Phoenix Suns Win in More Ways Than One

By <http://www.zcommunications.org/zspace/davezirin>Dave Zirin

Friday, May 07, 2010

Anyone who believes that sports can’t be an 
effective platform for social justice, needed 
only to watch last night’s game between Los Suns 
of Phoenix and the San Antonio Spurs. The 
unprecedented decision by the entire Suns 
organization - from owner Robert Sarver to star 
players Amare Stoudamire and Steve Nash - to come 
out against Arizona’s anti-immigrant Senate Bill 
1070, created a sports broadcast like no other in 
my lifetime. The game on TNT began with sideline 
reporter Marty Snider outside the arena covering 
a mushrooming 3,000 person civil rights march, 
led by Al Sharpton and Phoenix mayor Phil Gordon 
(both wearing Los Suns Jerseys.) Then the scene 
switched to the pre-game studio with host Ernie 
Johnson and former players Kenny “the Jet” Smith, 
Chris Webber, and Charles Barkley. The viewing 
audience then got an unexpected and bracing lesson in dissent.

Kenny Smith, like any good point guard, set up 
the others by saying, “I think it’s great that 
the team understands, the management understands 
and now the people of Phoenix are all rallying 
together at the same time.” Barkley, a long time 
Arizona resident and a man who once said that he 
was a Republican until “the Republicans lost 
their damn minds” chimed in saying, “The only 
people screwing it up are the politicians. The 
Governor – the interim governor I might add - 
J.D. Hayworth and John McCain. They’re the ones 
screwing this thing up. I really take my hat off 
to Robert Sarver and the Suns for taking a 
stand.  You know, living in Arizona for a long 
time, the Hispanic community, they’re like the 
fabric of the cloth. They’re part of our 
community and any time you try to do any type of 
racial profiling or racial discrimination

President Obama you’ve got to do something 
because these lightweight politicians in Arizona 
have no idea what they are doing.”

The typically blunt Barkley speaking in such 
terms is hardly surprising. But it was Chris 
Webber who upped the ante, interrupting a visibly 
uncomfortable Ernie Johnson with, “Public Enemy 
said it a long time ago. ‘By the Time I Get to 
Arizona.’ I’m not surprised. They didn’t even 
want there to be a Martin Luther King day when 
John McCain was in [office.]. So if you follow 
history you know that this is part of Arizona 
politics.” It was a remarkable display and it was 
difficult to not think of the millions of 
television viewers around the country, in sports 
bars, restaurants, and house parties, being 
confronted with this kind of forthright, plainspoken language.

But perhaps even more important than the support 
Los Suns received from protestors and 
broadcasters, was their play on the court. 
Phoenix trailed by nine at the end of the first 
quarter and Spurs star power forward Tim Duncan 
was scoring with ease. The crowd was dead and it 
wasn’t difficult to envision what would be said 
in the SportsWorld if Phoenix lost: “The 
political hoopla was a distraction.” “This is why 
sports and politics don’t mix.” “They should have 
been focused on the Spurs and not immigration.” 
And grinning smugly would have been LA Lakers 
coach Phil Jackson who chided the Suns yesterday 
saying, "If I heard it right the American people 
are really for stronger immigration laws.... I 
don't think teams should get involved in the political stuff."

In other words, everyone who stands with SB 1070 
would be feeling a little more joyful this 
morning. It would have been an echo of the time 
Muhammad Ali lost his first fight to Joe Frazier 
and all the columnists and fans who wanted to see 
the draft dodging Ali punished, chortled 
gleefully after he was knocked to the canvas. But 
just when we were all ready to stick a fork in 
the brick-laying Suns, something remarkable 
happened. The slick shooting, fast breaking team 
started to crash the boards, play ugly, and do 
all the dirty work that wins games. Doughy, 
undersized three point shooter Jared Dudley 
started  aggressively snatching offensive 
rebounds like his soul had been possessed by 
Barkley himself, energizing the crowd and 
shocking his team back to life. The result was a 
110-102 victory in which the run and gun Suns 
were held to just eight fast break points. Coach 
Alvin Gentry said afterward that he had never 
seen the team play so mentally tough.

Maybe this will be the start of a new trend where 
teams see the unifying benefits of going out on a 
political limb and taking a stand. Maybe players 
across the sports leagues who oppose SB 1070 will 
be inspired to come together in a common 
organization and demand Arizona cease the 
imposition of “Juan Crow” on the Latino 
population. Maybe the major sports unions, all of 
whom have voiced opposition to the bill, will 
release a joint statement saying that they will 
support any player or team who boycotts the state 
as long as SB 1070 is on the books. Maybe this is 
all utterly unrealistic. But it seems a hell of a 
lot more possible this morning than it did last night. Viva Los Suns.

[Dave Zirin is the author of the forthcoming “Bad 
Sports: How Owners are Ruining the Games we Love” 
(Scribner) Receive his column every week by 
<mailto:dave at edgeofsports.com>dave at edgeofsports.com. 
Contact him at <mailto:edgeofsports at gmail.com>edgeofsports at gmail.com.]

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