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Eclipsing “Los Suns”

6 May 2010

Jobsanger writes from the Texas panhandle:

Last night, the Phoenix Suns basketball team wore special jerseys that identified them as “Los Suns” during game 2 of their playoff series. The game was played in Phoenix. Team owner Robert Sarver, a self-identified Republican, said the jerseys served a dual purpose. They “honor our Latino community and the diversity of our league, the state of Arizona and our nation.” But he made it clear that the jerseys were also worn as a political statement against the state’s new anti-immigrant law.

Sun’s guard Steve Nash, himself an immigrant (from Canada), also spoke out on the law saying, “I think the law is very misguided. I think it is unfortunately to the detriment of our society and our civil liberties and I think it is very important for us to stand up for things we believe in. I think the law can obviously can target opportunities for racial profiling. Things we don’t want to see and don’t need to see in 2010.”

All that is good, and Mr. Sarver should be mildly saluted for trying to do the right thing, but — as Washington Post sportswriter Mike Wise notes, there were other motives for Sarver’s decision:

Sports franchises have never been separate from the communities in which they reside, and they have become even more entwined over the years as they have skyrocketed in value, becoming some of the most lucrative properties in their geographic areas.

Sarver is both an Arizona citizen and a businessman. He knows the ugly tenor growing around the country over the law, which is the closest thing to legalized racial profiling since having to show proof of emancipation. He also knows he has an arena to fill. His stance risks offending a good portion of his season-ticket base, but a national boycott including hotels and conventions could financially decimate the state.

That’s the whole point.

We know that just a sports boycott is making state officials nervous. How else to account for Governor Jan Brewer penning an editorial (or, having an editorial penned for her) defending S.B. 1070 in ESPN SPORTS! She writes “…history shows that boycotts backfire and harm innocent people. Boycotts are just more politics and manipulation by out-of-state interests.” If “boycotts backfire” then why is she going to such lengths to stave off one that is in her own interest? And, as to “hurting innocent people” sorry… but the reason for the boycott is that the people of Arizona did not stop their leaders from stepping beyond the pale of civilized behavior.  Much as I appreciate my Arizona readers, my Arizona friends and colleages and Arizona business associates,this is the only way to get their attention.

A threatened sports boycott has grabbed the Governor’s attention, but she is resisting.  When “good Arizonans” like Robert Sarver, try to work around the boycott, it gives aid and comfort to the Governor, and increases the odds that we “outside interests” are going to escalate, and — as the Governor says — “hurt innocent people”.  If not sports, then the boycott will extend to agricultural products, and Arizona manufacturers, and services and … I’m afraid… Arizonans themselves.

There was something cheesy in trying to make a media spectacle (and garner good will) simply by wearing alternative uniforms on a U.S. pseudo-holiday meant to tap into the “Hispanic” market.   The rationale — that the game was played on Cinco de Mayo–  just reminds me that the day is celebrated largely because festivals and events  were supported and fostered by brewer Joseph Coors, to end a boycott of his beer brands prompted by his own reactionary and racist views.  In other words, a marketing gimmick  more than a political gesture — a means of protecting the business interest of one company from the expected boycott of Saver’s particular niche business.

Worse yet, buying into the idea that one is somehow doing some good by supporting “Los Suns” justifies doing nothing.  People will be happy to buy a “Los Suns” jersey (thereby breaking the sports boycott) and think they have actually contributed to bettering human rights.  No… they’ve contributed to the bottom line of Arizona industries and propped up the State that is threatening human rights.   And,  by giving a pass on the boycott for the Suns, carving out exemptions for businesses that try to do the right thing is not enough.  And, if a sports boycott doesn’t work, it increases the likelihood of escalated actions that could result in property damage or violence.  No justice, no peace, as the saying goes.  But justice defrayed by nothing but symbolic posturing is justice denied.

A “political statement” perhaps.  But an impotent one at best– terribly self-serving (and one done in bad Spanglish) and counterproductive all the same.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. don quixote permalink
    6 May 2010 7:49 am

    Excellent points and post Rich, sports are not excluded from political and social protest , and in fact can be one of the few arenas where oppressed people can express themselves on the world stage and get the message out.
    The worldwide TV media is so controlled and slanted towards corporate interests that real information or opposing views that might conflict with monopoly capitalism and it’s global hegemony is almost non-existent.

    The fact that Steve Nash and the Los Suns sympathize with Latino’s and the Mexican heritage of Arizona should not exclude them from the boycott of Arizona.

    As Mike Wise in the WaPo points out,
    “You’ve got to stand for something or fall for anything”

    Boycott Arizona!

  2. Maggie Drake permalink
    6 May 2010 2:01 pm

    Good points Richard if you’re a purist. However, after yesterday’s blasting on the MSM that the so-called polls (Rasmusen ? Hahahahaha) portrayed the majority of Americans in support of the Nazi law, I feel “Los Suns” was needed to give some hope and support.

    Perhaps there were other motivations, and we all know about Cinco de Mayo being a pseudo holiday and a money maker for the corporates, but still, it is widely popular with Mexican Americans, let’s not take that away from them too. On an emotive level, it was necessary.

    The intellectuals may have figured all of this out, but I feel it is overload at this particular moment.

    Oh well, it’s just the way I feel.

    Maggie

  3. el_longhorn permalink
    6 May 2010 2:49 pm

    I think it was an important point the Suns (er…Los Suns) made. Yes it was self serving, but that’s life. I don’t see it as counterproductive, though. The boycott (if any) will be by Major League Baseball moving its 2011 all star game out of Phoenix. 30% of players in MLB are Latino, many are foreigners.

    Also, the Fiesta Bowl could be vulnerable. I could see a boycott gaining traction on a collegiate level.

    Money talks, bullshit walks. It’s the American way.

  4. otto permalink
    6 May 2010 7:01 pm

    fwiw count me with el_longhorn, coming at y’all from the world of Realpolitik.

  5. Maggie Drake permalink
    6 May 2010 7:45 pm

    Pure as the driven slush, LMAO Richard.

    However, now it is clear that you need to be interviewed by Rachel Maddow and make your points and educate the public. Whether they will be ready to accept these notions(which are truisms) I kinda doubt, but a seed is a seed.

    XXX

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