Phoenix Suns (sort of) Making a Stand for Hispanic Fans

As the political climate in Arizona heats up over the recent immigration laws signed into being by Arizona governor Jan Brewer, the Suns have announced that they will wear “Los Suns” jerseys in tonights playoff game as a show of solidarity with Arizona’s Hispanic community.

High profile members of the Phoenix Suns organization, including GM Steve Kerr, Steve Nash, and Amar’e Stoudemire, have expressed dismay over the new laws, which may allow police officers to question anyone who appears to be an illegal alien. The law does not set clear provisions for how the appearance of illegality would be judged, beyond stating that officers need “reasonable suspicion” to make “reasonable attempts… to determine the immigration status.”

The provisions demand subjectivity on the part of Arizona police officers (as do most laws), and has led some to worry that it will allow officers to question anyone who looks Hispanic.

The fear, as stated by executive director of the NBA Players Association, Billy Hunter, is that “any attempts to encourage, tolerate or legalize racial profiling is offensive and incompatible with basic notions of fairness and equal protection.” Whether or not you agree with this, you have to agree that the Suns and the NBA’s notion of solidarity is a bit weird.

I have no problem with the organization deciding to take a political stand if it feels that its customers, the fans, are being wrongly mistreated, profiled, or discriminated against. I have a big problem with “Los Suns.”

In the words of Amar’e, the Suns want to “let the Latin community know we’re behind them 100%.” Well then why not make their jerseys 100% Spanish? Los Suns is like an institutionalization of Chad Ochocinco’s sadly inaccurate attempt to say “85” in Spanglish.

“Los Soles” not only sounds cooler than Los Suns, it would set a trend for the Heat to get rid of their “El Heat” jerseys in favor of “El Calor.” It would also say “not only do we sympathize with the concerns of our Hispanic fans, we thought about this deeply enough to put two words from their native language together.”

The whole Noches Latinas concept that spawned the multilingual jerseys was meant to recognize the Latino fan community. Does the fact they only got half way done with the jerseys show a halfhearted commitment?

I should say that the Suns organization hasn’t come out and blasted the bill. Players have, more or less, expressed reservations about what the law could mean without outright condemning it. Even Nash, who addresses Spanish language media outlets in fluent Spanish, has only said the law is creates opportunity for “things we don’t want to see, and don’t need to see in 2010.”

Given the lack of virulent protest from the organization, maybe the uniforms should be only half Spanish.

Then again, it’s unlikely that a team in any other league would address this issue. NBA fans trend more liberal than fans of other major leagues like the NFL and MLB. The pro football team in our nation’s capital is still called the Redskins. There’s a reason that many college campuses changed potentially offensive American Indian related mascots: colleges are typically liberal places (except maybe Oral Roberts).

I admit that I have mixed feelings about the new laws, and need to read more about them to fully understand the implications for Arizona’s Hispanic population. But if the Phoenix Suns and the NBA feel strongly enough to communicate to Arizona’s people with this admirable symbolic gesture, they should be thoughtful enough to do it right. Viva Los Soles!

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