Immigration and Sport: How Do the Dots Connect Them?

 

The presence of large numbers of illegal immigrants in this country remains a touchy political issue.  This issue even spills over into the world of sports.  In 2010 the Arizona legislature passed a package of tough new immigration laws that the governor, Jan Brewer, quickly signed into law.

One of the new laws gives the police broad powers to stop and interrogate anyone who looks “suspicious”.  Other laws stipulate that people must show an approved ID when making purchases with a department store credit card; when coming in for a doctor’s appointment; when completing a loan application; and when applying for insurance, among other things.

Shortly after the laws passed the owner of the Phoenix Suns basketball team, Robert Sarver, made a public statement in which he strongly opposed the new laws.  During the 2010 NBA Western Conference semi-final series against the Portland Trailblazers he had his team wear orange “Los Suns” jerseys in a game in Portland to publicize his position.  Sarver stated that he and everyone associated with the NBA supported diversity and opposed the discriminatory aspects of Arizona’s new laws.  As a banker he also was concerned about any law that could create a negative public image for Arizona and thus hurt the business climate in the state.

Earlier this year Gov. Brewer issued a statement in opposition to Sarver’s stance.  It read in part:

      What if the owners of the Suns discovered that hordes of people were sneaking into
      games without paying?  What if they had a good idea who the gate-crashers are, but
      the users and security personnel were not allowed to ask those folks to produce their
      ticket stubs, thus non-paying attendees couldn’t be ejected.
      Furthermore, what if Suns’ ownership was expected to provide those who sneaked in
      with complimentary eats and drink?  And what if, on those days when a gate-crasher
      became ill or injured, the Suns had to provide free medical care and shelter?

This same issue could play out in Southern California, not only with the area’s two NBA franchises but also with Major League Soccer’s two Los Angeles franchises.  There is no question that proponents of tougher immigration laws are motivated by economic concerns over the cost of providing public services to illegal immigrants and over concerns that they take jobs from legitimate citizens.  On the other side are business interests who believe that creating a perception of intolerance can be bad for business.

This issue isn’t going away any time soon.  State budgets are stretched to the limits and minority groups are always easy targets in times of stress.  These same issues were in the news during the Great Depression of the 1930s. 

Whose side do you support readers?

 

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