Left field

The Reuters global sports blog

When politics enters sports

May 5, 2010

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For many people, watching a ball game represents a chance to escape the problems of everyday life.

Money problems melt away, at least for a few seconds, when watching LeBron James take off from the foul line and rip down a rim-rattling, backboard-swaying slam dunk. Watching Albert Pujols slug a three-run homer into the upper deck with two runners on in the bottom of the ninth can make one forget, albeit briefly, painful family issues.

That’s why the Phoenix Suns wearing “Los Suns” on their jersey for Wednesday’s playoff game against San Antonio crosses the line. The uniform change is not meant merely to support the Latino community but to slam a new controversial Arizona immigration law.Phoenix Suns' Steve Nash, of Canada, drives against the New Orleans Hornets in the third quarter of their NBA basketball game in Phoenix, Arizona, March 14, 2010. The game is Nash's 1000th career NBA game. REUTERS/Rick Scuteri (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

The law requires state and local police to determine people’s immigration status if there is “reasonable suspicion” they are in the United States illegally.

“The frustration with the federal government’s failure to deal with the issue of illegal immigration resulted in passage of a flawed state law,” team owner Robert Sarver said in a statement explaining the temporary jersey change.

Supporters say the law is needed to curb crime in Arizona, home to nearly a half-million illegal immigrants and a major corridor for drug and migrant smugglers from Mexico.

It is clearly an issue of passion and more important than anything that happens on the field of play. But political issues should never creep into the sanctuary of a ball game.

Where does it end? Is the abortion issue too hot? Is an environmental issue permissible? No matter how subtle, sports teams taking a side should be taboo.

The NBA should not allow any uniform changes as an avenue to deal with any off-the-court controversies.

  • No, I do not go to sporting events for political debate
  • Yes, I want to know what values a sports franchise has
  • Does not matter, just as long as the games are played

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