The Phoenix Suns will wear the jerseys in tonight's playoff game on the Cinco de Mayo holiday to "to honor our Latino community and the diversity of our league, the state of Arizona, and our nation," says the owner.
Owner Robert Sarver told the Associated Press that frustration with the federal government's failure to deal with the illegal immigration issue led to the passage of what he called "a flawed state law."
"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," he said, "and Arizona's already struggling economy will suffer even further setbacks at a time when the state can ill-afford them."
The law passed by the Arizona Legislature and signed by Gov. Jan Brewer defines illegal immigration as trespassing and allows local law enforcement agencies to question people they suspect of being undocumented.
Opponents of the law say it will encourage racial profiling, break up families, and harm communities by making illegal immigrants fearful of co-operating with police investigating crimes.
Supporters of the law in Arizona say it's not about race, but rules. And that the state was essentially forced to confront the issue because of the federal government's failure to act.
Sarver came up with the idea for the jerseys, but left it up to the players for a final decision. Suns guard Steve Nash said it was a unanimous decision.
"I think it's fantastic," Nash said after Tuesday's practice. "I think the law is very misguided. I think it's, unfortunately, to the detriment of our society and our civil liberties. I think it's very important for us to stand up for things we believe in. As a team and as 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."
Check out ESPN's interview with Nash for more on the controversy.
San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich told the Associated Press said his team was interested in taking part but couldn't get new "Los Spurs" road jerseys in time for the game.
"It's a wonderful idea," Popovich said. "because it kind of shows what we all should be about. Sure there needs to be a lot of work done, obviously. A lot of administrations have done nothing about the immigration deal and now everybody's paying the price, especially a lot of people in Arizona. That's a bad thing, but the reaction is important, too, and this reaction [the Arizona law], I believe with Mr. Sarver, is inappropriate."
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