As criticism of Arizona's anti-immigrant law escalates, the Phoenix Suns basketball team has joined the fray.
Suns owner Robert Sarver with unanimous support from the players said the team decided to wear "Los Suns" ("The Suns" in Spanish) on their jerseys in Game 2 of the NBA Western Conference semifinals on Wednesday night, May 5, "to honor our Latino community and the diversity of our league, the state of Arizona, and our nation."
The team wore the jerseys to honor the Mexican Cinco de Mayo holiday, widely celebrated in the U.S., and to reflect their belief that signing the Arizona law was not the right way to handle the problem of immigration, said Sarver.
Sarver, born and raised in Tucson, Ariz., told The Associated Press he's frustrated with the federal government's failure to address immigration reform, which he said led to the passage of "a flawed state law."
The law makes it a state crime to be in Arizona without proper documents and authorizes local police to check the legal status of anyone they suspect of being an undocumented immigrant. These provisions are being widely assailed as unconstitutional and spurring extreme racial profiling.
Suns General Manager Steve Kerr said the organization felt it was their "duty" to address the issue.
The NBA and the league's players union supported the Suns decision to protest the law.
In a statement the players union, the National Basketball Players Association, said it welcomes the Suns decision and criticized the controversial law, calling it "disappointing and disturbing."
"We applaud the actions of the Phoenix Suns players and management and join them in taking a stand against the misguided efforts of Arizona lawmakers," said the union. "We are consulting with our members and our players leadership to determine the most effective way for our union to continue to voice our opposition to this legislation."
Suns co-captain Steve Nash, a South African-born Canadian who has a green card to work in the U.S., said the idea to wear the jerseys and protest the law is "fantastic."
"I think it's very important for us to stand up for things we believe in," Nash said. "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."
Speaking to the Arizona Republic, Nash added, "I don't agree with the spirit of the bill or the message it sends, not only to people in our community but how it represents our community across the country and the world."
Nash said the Arizona law opens up the door for racial profiling and encourages racism.