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'Los Suns' Cinco de Mayo statement: protest on a tank top

The Phoenix Suns players decided to wear their Spanish 'Los Suns' jerseys to tonight's Cinco de Mayo playoff game to protest the new Arizona immigration law. It's the latest example of America's often-contradictory views on illegal immigration and the Hispanic community.

By Staff writer / May 5, 2010

Steve Nash of the Phoenix Suns (c.) looks to pass the ball during Game 1 of their playoff series against the San Antonio Spurs Monday. The Suns will wear jerseys that say 'Los Suns' during Wednesday's Game 2 – on Cinco de Mayo – to protest the Arizona immigration law.

Joshua Lott/Reuters

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The calendar provides ample reason for basketball's Phoenix Suns to rename themselves "Los Suns" in their playoff game against the San Antonio Spurs tonight: It is Cinco de Mayo. But in truth, the calendar is merely providing the cover for the Suns' protest against the tough new Arizona immigration law.

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Steve Kerr, the Suns' general manager, told the Arizona Republic that players felt it was their "duty" to make a statement about the Arizona law during a nationally televised event.

"It's important that everyone in our state and nation understands that this is an issue that needs to be explored," Mr. Kerr said. "So, we're trying to expose it."

The prospect of the Suns and their players making a bald political statement on the hardwood is rare enough. Blurring the line between sports and politics risks offending diverse fan bases, so it generally doesn't happen.

But the decision also highlights a broader nation that holds splintered and often contradictory views toward its Hispanic community in general and illegal immigration in particular. For example, a majority of Americans support the Arizona law, according to several polls. But a majority of independents – who occupy America's political center – support some form of amnesty for illegal immigrants already in the country, according to a recent poll by Ayres, McHenry & Associates, Inc.

An American ambivalence to Hispanics?

Conservative columnist Ramesh Ponnuru of the National Review, puts it this way: "People are not interested in a message on immigration that seems personally hostile to immigrants, even to illegal immigrants," according to the Daily Caller online newspaper.

Others see the reaction to the Arizona law, which allows police to ask those suspected to be in the state illegally for documentation, as part of a deeper ambivalence. This ambivalence "reflects a politically divided nation, but [it] is also within individuals themselves, where there's a real love-hate relationship [with Hispanics] … that comes out in the way people are responding to Arizona," says Juan Flores, author of "The Diaspora Strikes Back."

"And sports itself is an example of that juncture between America and Latin America and how it's challenging US culture," he says.

Baseball's Arizona Diamondbacks have already been picketed during a recent game against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field, and there is some talk of organizing a boycott of the Major League Baseball All-Star Game in Phoenix next year.

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