The community of Los Angeles has made it crystal clear where they stand on Arizona's controversial Senate Bill 1070, which sanctifies racial profiling as state law. The LA city council voted 13-1 to "ban most city travel there and to forgo future business contracts with companies headquartered in the state." The Los Angeles Times Editorial Page called for the moving of the 2011 Major League Baseball All Star game from Phoenix writing, "A new law in Arizona seems almost certain to lead to racial profiling against Latinos, violating the American values so integral to baseball."
Yes, Los Angeles is standing as one against Arizona's spastic extremism. Everyone in Los Angeles, that is, except for iconic Los Angeles Lakers basketball coach Phil Jackson. In an interview with ESPN, Jackson spoke in support of SB 1070 saying, "Am I crazy, or am I the only one that heard [the legislature] say 'we just took the United States immigration law and adapted it to our state.'" When sports reporter J.A. Adande remarked that SB 1070 actually represented "the usurping of federal law," Jackson responded, "It's not usurping.... they gave it some teeth to be able to enforce it."
He then chided his upcoming playoff opponent, the Phoenix Suns, for coming out as a team - from owner to players - against the bill.
"I don't think teams should get involved in the political stuff," Jackson said. "If I heard it right the American people are really for stronger immigration laws, if I'm not mistaken. Where we stand as basketball teams, we should let that kind of play out and let the political end of that go where it's going to go."
Yes, Phil Jackson in the same breath, supported this draconian bill and then blasted the Suns for making a political statement about it. That's what my grandmother would have called "cheek."
Jackson's words have sparked a petition campaign by the group AltoArizona.com which reads,
"Coach Jackson, Stand with Los Angeles. The city just denounced Arizona's hateful law and so should you. Targeting people based on their skin color isn't 'giving [the law] teeth'. It's a backwards and terrible step on the wrong side of history. On or off the court, there's no room for haters. Los Lakers need to take a stand with the fans."
There is also a call to protest outside the Staples Center on May 17th before game one of the Lakers Western conference championship series against Los Suns. It states,
"What if during a basketball Game in Arizona, Lakers Fans get questioned about their immigration status? Protest outside Staples Center on Monday May17th, at 5pm to denounce Lakers Coach Phil Jackson for his support of Racist Arizona bill SB1070. We all know that a great deal of our community members support the Lakers. ....People want the LAKERS to take a stand or for Phil Jackson to clarify his position on the racist bill that criminalizes fans."
Phil Jackson has a reputation for being some sort of liberal. But he's really more of a cliché: the 1960s flower child who has made the lucrative journey from rebel to reactionary. It was Phil Jackson when the NBA passed dress code requirements for players, who lectured, "I don't mean to say [this] as a snide remark toward a certain population in our society, but they have a limitation of their attention span, a lot of it probably due to too much rap music going in their ears and coming out their being....The players have been dressing in prison garb the last five or six years. All the stuff that goes on, it's like gangster, thuggery stuff."
This is Phil Jackson: if you dress a certain way, you must be some sort of criminal thug. If you look a certain way, police have every right to demand your papers. He's a man of the 60s all right. The 1860s. Not only should people sign the petition. Not only should people come out to the Staples Center and protest on May 17th. People in LA, lifelong Lakers fans, should boo Phil Jackson and his team. They should root and cheer for Los Suns, devoting every last particle of karmic energy toward sending the Lakers home for the summer. As Alto Arizona says, "A coach that doesn't support the community doesn't have the community's support." Vivan Los Suns.
[Dave Zirin is the author of the forthcoming "Bad Sports: How Owners are Ruining the Games we Love" (Scribner) Receive his column every week by emailing email@example.com. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.]
First run at thenation.com