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May 6th, 2010
10:00 AM ET

Gut Check: Should athletes play politics?

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="The Phoenix Suns wear 'Los Suns' jerseys on Cinco de Mayo in response to an immigration law recently passed in Arizona."]

By Carol Costello, CNN

(CNN) – The world of politics is colliding with the world of sports over Arizona’s controversial new immigration law.

Last night, there were more protests at the Arizona Diamondbacks game and the Phoenix Suns took to the court wearing jerseys reading “Los Suns” to show team solidarity with Latinos.

Politicians, like New Mexico’s Governor Bill Richardson, are debating the law, not just on CNN, but on ESPN too.

Time for a Gut Check: Should basketball or baseball or any other pro sports team get involved in politics?

Steve Nash, who plays for the Phoenix Suns, says yes. “We have a lot of love. Latino fans. We have Latino players on both teams. And unfortunately that's the group that seems to be targeted by this bill. And it's a shame.”

The Arizona law is designed to identify, prosecute and deport illegal immigrants. It allows police officers to ask people "for papers" proving legal residency. Critics say it will lead to racial profiling.

Not all Arizona sports teams are overtly taking sides in the controversy over the bill. According to the Phoenix Business Journal, Arizona's baseball team is not taking an overt political stance, despite the fact its managing partner, Ken Kendrick, personally opposes the law.

Some politicians outside of Arizona wish Kendrick and all of baseball would take a stand.

New York Democratic Rep. Jose Serrano wants Major League Baseball to pull the All-Star Game out of Arizona in 2011. "You can’t on one hand talk about the diversity in baseball and celebrate it – and we should celebrate it – and then say we should discriminate against 40 percent of the organized players in baseball.”

Major League Baseball’s commissioner, Bud Selig, has no comment on the matter now, but sources tell CNN Selig will eventually say something about the controversy.

We want to know what you think: Should Selig speak out? Should pro sports teams jump into politics?

Filed under: Controversy • Gut Check • Immigration • Sports
soundoff (27 Responses)
  1. Shawn

    Corporations can play why not sports teams or their athletes. Churches get tax exempt status and are required to not be involved in politics in order to keep that status, however they regularly break that rule. You don't have to listen or agree with what they say. If a corporation has the same rights as an individual when it comes to campaign financing (see recent bogus supreme court ruling) then sports franchises and its athletes have the right to voice their opinion, at least in the sports case we know who the message is coming from. Bottom line listen to what people have to say, but draw your own educated conclusion.

    May 12, 2010 at 2:00 pm |
  2. Ricardo

    Are athletes not citizens, are they not tax layers, are they not parents and husbands and wives and brothers an sisters, are they not human beings. This is one stupid question. Everyone in this country should be engaged in these issues. When you desensitize us from politics you diminish our democracy.

    May 8, 2010 at 3:37 pm |
  3. Paul Bartomioli

    Athletes are entitled to their opinions, even those made in ignorance. There seems to be a lot of that behavior today, from the Oval Office to the water cooler.

    It starts with poor grammar. This is not about immigration. It is about an illegal activity. Ask any of the tribes of American Indians if they should have been more vigilant with their borders.

    Ask the government of Mexico about their 10 year mandatory imprisonment, no parole, followed by deportation.

    If any athlete and/or sports team wants to support a political cause, they have that right. As consumers, we have the right to not buy their products. Ask the Dixie Chicks.

    Jay Leno had it right, the suns were wearing uniforms in Spanish, made in China, on the advice of a Canadian citizen, to protest an action of an American state.

    My question: Why are the uniforms in Spanglish? "Los Suns" is not a Spanish expression. Should it not be "Los Soles?" Or would that confuse the paying customers?

    May 8, 2010 at 11:06 am |
  4. Rick

    I hate this for the players who don't agree. I don't think any company should be able to make their employees wear political clothing period. The pro-illegal opinion couldn't possible represent each individual on the teams opinion although it appears to when fans see their jerseys. Whats next? Your boss taking bids from political groups to try to make you represent a religion or cause thats not your own?

    May 7, 2010 at 9:11 am |
  5. real american

    Americans need to get real. People who try to attack this country are, eneamy`s of this country and need to be treated as such, and if the crime warrants so even put to death for treason. We have been a peace loveing nation for many years, and lots have died for this cause i myself have served my country. durring peace time but if we would have been at war i would have done my job just like my dad did durring the korean war. So let`s stop playing with these sissy terrorist that only attack women and children.

    May 7, 2010 at 9:06 am |
  6. Jeremy D from MI

    Any person with celebrity shouldn't abuse their power for politics. It is wrong to manipulate people. Unfortunately, plenty of celebrities do. Most do it for the democrats, although there are a few that are for republicans. 30% of people are naive and will give undue credibility to people they admire.

    May 7, 2010 at 8:08 am |
  7. jmz

    Marie. You do realize the tiem you speak of is LONG past. The 'evil AZ law is a reflection of federal law that has been in use over 50 yrs. You DO realize that MX has real draconian immigration laws that make it a FELONY to be an illegal there? This is not a 'civil rights' issue at all. The libs have this naieve kumbaya notion that all these illegals comming over are peacful and they are helping them. The only thing they are doing is giving power to the criminals that sneak over and kill people(like the rancher and others) and puting American citizens lives in danger as well as the migrants themselves. Do you understand that. Illegal immigration is nothing more than modern day slave trading. Every rape, murder, death etc that happens because of illegal immigration, now in part belong to LOS SUNS.

    May 7, 2010 at 2:10 am |
  8. jmz

    They have a right to their opinion. But they need to remember that they are dependant on having people like them. Insulting Americans by siding with illegals is not the best way to do that. Their 'los suns' opinions make them look like fools, because they are not only on the wrong side of the issue, but they do not know the law or what it really says. All they are going by are the biased liberal media who also have not read it, and thoes who have a direct stake in keeping illegal immigration alive. They need to learn the difference btw LEGAL immigration. and ILLEGAL migration, and they law before they start telling the MAJORITY of AZ residents and the MAJORITY of American CITIZENS how they should feel. I wonder if CNN and the other liberal media would be so kind to LOSt SUNS. if they were tea party memebers expressing their opinions? Hey fellas how about a little SUN TEA!?

    May 7, 2010 at 2:03 am |
  9. Legal American

    I 100% disagree with "Los Suns". I am completely shocked that AZ would allow this to happen. My two sons – we upset because they idolize the Phoenix Suns – not the "Los Suns"!! What are we trying to say – is AZ that mixed up of a State? I dont care the color of your skin, I dont care your profession, I do care that you are here Legally and paying taxes like the rest of us. I'm glad our Mayor actually stepped up to the plate and is thinking about our state. Everyone else should stop jumping on the band-wagon and realize that this is not a racial quest – it's to BETTER ARIZONA!!!!

    May 6, 2010 at 10:07 pm |
  10. bucko2009

    Sorry, marie but it does seem like ignorance DOES represent YOUR way.

    May 6, 2010 at 6:42 pm |
  11. phil

    Boycott "los Suns", and send the whole team down to mexico, because apparently the teams loyalty resides only with illegal mexican immigrants, who will of course be the target of this new law. afterall why shouldn't they? there is no other country that sends illegals here in the droves that mexico does. not even a close second. The suns don't care about the democratic process here in phoenix (USA), to kick em out

    May 6, 2010 at 2:54 pm |
  12. phil

    i am a long time Phoenix resident, but not a big suns fan, but would rout for them in most contest... NO MORE, and NEVER AGAIN. dispicable action, wearing a "los Suns" jersey. What a slap in the face to all those who have suffered with illegal immigration, to all those who were victimized by illegal immigrants crimes, to all those store owners who went outta business because they could not afford to compete with a legal staff, to all those proud mexican and latino immigrants who came here legally, and assimilated into the American Fabric. The suns have chosen to say, "go to hell", to a huge majourity of Phoenix and the state of Arizona, which, last time i checked was located in the USA.. we have laws here in the USA, right?

    May 6, 2010 at 2:50 pm |
  13. kal-el1023

    Just like we the American citizens have to buy and pay for the health insurance program, the illegal immigration supporters should have to pay extra for illegal immigrant related expenses and related crimes and damages if they really feel so strongly about it. Not American citizens who have been paying for it. This should include making the sb1070, with a few minor changes a nationwide law. Sb1070 should already be law. As a tit for tat, supporters of the anti illegal immigration law should boycott those businesses(ie phoenix suns) that support illegal immigration.

    May 6, 2010 at 2:43 pm |
  14. What the heck?!?!?

    LOST Suns!

    This is about ILLEGAL aliens, not about RACE.

    ...and some kids were sent home from school for wearing American Flag tee-shirts on Cinco de Mayo ?!?!?

    America is on a downward spiral.

    You come to America to be American ... LEGALLY ... you learn English, and get a job and support yourself ... and blend into the melting pot. We are no longer melting!

    May 6, 2010 at 1:16 pm |
  15. Come On Now

    The NBA has worn these jerseys for the last 4 years, how is it all of a suddent in "protest"? How about we work on not retroactively appropriating the news, eh?

    May 6, 2010 at 12:36 pm |
  16. Ranger61

    I think Bud Selig can say what he likes, just like sports teams are allowed to say/do what they want as any business. They may do more harm by taking a stand on a political issue that is very divisive in this country. The reason its dividing Americans is because of how one side spins the issue. They tell us its racially motivated, but illegal has no race or nationality. If sports teams want to be involved in politics then they should also respect the right of states to create laws to protect its legal citizens. Until this law is deemed unconstitutional its the right of the state of Arizona to do as they want.

    May 6, 2010 at 12:17 pm |
  17. bob the builder

    Now what this article doesnt say is that the police cant ask for papers for no reason at all

    May 6, 2010 at 11:53 am |
  18. Victor

    Since when did being an athlete automatically disqualify you from being a citizen and a human?

    Plus, as much as I disagree with it, didn't this country also pass a law that makes companies count as people?

    As citizens of this country it is our right, privilege and duty to actively participate in civic debate. In fact those in positions of influence, like athletes and celebrities have even a higher responsibility because they have greater influence.

    Suggesting that athletes and teams not openly express their discontent with a social issue is like suggesting that George Clooney need not rally up a telethon for Haiti or Michael Jackson should not have organized we are the World for Africa and Aids.

    Conservative rich would love to squash political discussion as much as possible because it deters from open debate and open review of their radically oppressive actions. In a country that prides itself on freedom of expression and freedom of the press, we sure have done a great job convincing people that discussing politics and social issues is taboo. This is why we have one of the most uneducated and uninvolved populations of the developed world.

    May 6, 2010 at 11:49 am |
  19. Rick

    To say this is directed towards latinos is profiling latinos. For New York Democratic Rep. Jose Serrano to say that that the law is discriminating against 40% of the baseball players is slanderous and saying 40% are illegal or have illegal ties. Who's really at fault here? Illegal residence isn't a skin color, its a crime that comes in many colors.

    May 6, 2010 at 11:35 am |
  20. Tom

    Give me a break, it's a basketball team. Who cares what they have on their jerseys? If you want to stop illegal immigration, crack down on the people who *pay* illegal immigrants to work for them. Then they will have no reason to come here, end of story. The current immigration bill is just political posturing by the GOP, not a real solution to the problem.

    May 6, 2010 at 11:32 am |
  21. mjr

    I totally agree with no.1 comment. Instead of boycotting and protesting againt arizona they should be thanking them. Our gov. has put this on the back burner far to long with promises of addressing this issue to no avail. By Arizona to take a stand it called out the gov. to act on this issue and do it,s job in protecting and serve the American people. It really sickens me when I see how I see how people in the public eye always want to make a race issue out something when it comes to upholding the law, the illegal immigrants are not the victems of circumstance they are breaking the law. Somebody needs to stand up for the legal immigrants and americans and besides how many sponsers that support these teams are foreign?

    May 6, 2010 at 11:31 am |
  22. sgt heath mitchum

    when athletes begin to police themeselves, then they can talk politics...overpaid athletes have no business in politics

    May 6, 2010 at 11:25 am |
  23. Robert

    Interesting how CNN and Carol pick and choose the negative comments about the suns. The Suns are a private enterprise. Any pro team can advertise or brand its team in any way they wish so long as that brand or advertisement does not violate the law.

    May 6, 2010 at 11:06 am |
  24. Marie

    I think Immigration reform is our social cival rights movement. I also think that what the Phonix Suns owner and team members did to show the nation that 'We the people' are and can make a difference in the political issues was right on! The first immigrates were the one who stood together to begin the 'NEW' country. As a nation we should once again unite in Solidarity to tell oue "ELECTED" leaders, ignorance and injustice does not represent the 'American Way'.

    May 6, 2010 at 11:04 am |
  25. Nick RadakN_

    No they shoudn't and especially over this immigration debate. If you are gioing to angry and boycott something then be it the gov. All Arizona is trying to do is enforce the laws that are already in place. This anger is misplaced. All these ahtletes are doing are stoking the fires and are supporting bad behavior. Shame on them You wanna be an athlete then play ball. I myself will e-mail the corp. that sponsers the teams and voice my concerns on this matter. The American people should boycott these teams and sponsers for they are the ones who rights to freedom and security are being tromped on!

    May 6, 2010 at 10:53 am |
  26. Betty

    If these rich spoiled ball players want illegal immigrants in this country then they can use their inflated salaries to support them. A majority of real Americans like this law and want it in all 50 states. I wonder how these players would feel if we started boycotting games and they began to lose money

    May 6, 2010 at 10:27 am |
  27. HernandeUSA

    We pay athletes lots of money to entertain Americans.

    We want athletes to be role models of morality.

    We do not want them be pawns of politics or race baiting.


    "Steve Nash, who plays for the Phoenix Suns, says yes. “We have a lot of love. Latino fans. We have Latino players on both teams. And unfortunately that's the group that seems to be targeted by this bill. And it's a shame.”"

    This is not focused on Latino Americans or any American of any RACE> Just ILLEGAL ALIENS...

    May 6, 2010 at 10:04 am |