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Date: Sat, 8 May 2010 15:08:57
From: moderator@PORTSIDE.ORG
Subject: Los Suns Also Rise: Phoenix Suns Win in More Ways Than One

[Video: Steve Nash:]

Edge of Sports

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

By Dave Zirin
May 6, 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 emailing Contact him at]


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