Depending on their perspective (or what day of the week it is), the protesters outside of Staples Center last night are either mad at Phil Jackson because he doesn’t seem to be totally against the new Arizona immigration law, that he believes his team shouldn’t take a political stance, or that he hasn’t spoken out loudly enough against the law.
Here’s why all three takes are full of crap:
Take No 1.: Phil Jackson supports the Arizona immigration law
Here is the article J.A. Adande wrote on May 5 in which he quotes the following exchange between he and the Lakers’ coach:
“‘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,’ Jackson said.’
I told him they usurped the federal law.
‘It’s not usurping, it’s just copying it is what they said they did, and then they gave it some teeth to be able to enforce it,’ Jackson said. ”
You have to really, really want it to see him as supporting the bill in that statement to come away with that opinion.
It’s just as likely that Phil is describing the intent of those Arizona lawmakers who managed to make the Kansas Board of Education seem level-headed. But because Jackson was saying something other than “this law is bad, mmkaaayy,” it left the door open for people looking to twist his words and create a symbol to rally against, however silly and pointless.
Take No. 2: The Lakers and Phil Jackson are wrong for not making a political statement
You just knew this would be an issue the minute a matchup between Los Suns and the Lakers was finalized. The Suns have been extremely proactive in speaking out against the law while the Lakers are determined to remain quiet on the issue. One protester is quoted in an ESPN article as saying:
“The Suns took the high road and it is an issue sports can affect,’ said Pete Navarro, an attorney in Los Angeles. ‘Arizona was awarded the 1993 Super Bowl and they were one of the last states to declare Martin Luther King Day an official holiday and they put pressure on the NFL and they moved the Super Bowl from Tempe to Pasadena until they made it an official holiday, so sports can affect politics.”
Just a hypothetical question for Mr. Pete Navarro of Los Angeles: what if Jerry Buss, Phil Jackson, and most of the organization were really in favor of the law, and went out of their way to express their support for it? Were that the case, I seriously doubt anyone outside the Staples Center Monday night would have been so adamant about the Lakers wearing the “Los Lakers” jerseys or demanding that the organization speak out.
It’s a terribly lazy and illogical to assume everyone agrees with you when you’re protesting something. I, for example, hate the designated hitter. But if I were staging a protest outside the L.A. Angels’ offices, I’d be insane to assume I’d have Hideki Matsui’s support since all he can do is DH.
There is also the possibility that the Lakers, as an organization, really do have no stance on the issue. It is, after all, an Arizona law and doesn’t directly affect the team.
Take No. 3: Phil Jackson hasn’t spoken forcibly enough against the law
Phil Jackson will speak about whatever Phil Jackson wants to speak about when and where Phil Jackson feels like speaking about it. He’s the Lakers’ coach which means that his opinion, while highly visible, carries as much weight as, say, a sports blogger’s.
Further, as a basketball coach, there is nothing in his job description that says he must take a stance on every key issue. Or any issue, for that matter. He could have an effect on the debate by voicing his opinion, but his job is to win championships, and commenting on a hot-button issue-of-the-moment would serve as nothing but a distraction from his goal. The man is not an idiot.
Finally, let’s not kid ourselves about the protesters outside Staples Center yesterday. They were there because it was a Lakers game against the Suns and they knew there would be a crap-load of press around. It’s not a crime to want to get the word out about one’s cause, but it’s farcical to pretend Phil Jackson did anything at all to warrant any antipathy whatsoever. Lindsay Lohan was in Cannes ostensibly to promote herself and further her career, but we all know she was really there for cocaine and orgies.
What’s worse is that it’s difficult to find anyone who believes the Arizona law is well-written or won’t cause massive legal and social problems. This is an easy win for people against the bill. Or it should be.
Getting rid of that law is a cause many people can support, especially since this particular law only exists because the federal government has (as usual) done nothing to actually solve the debate. The various Senators and Representatives in Washington would much rather the debate exist so they can have an issue to run on rather than fix the problem and have to find something else to talk about. What would Tom Tancredo have to say if it weren’t for immigration issues in this country? Nothing. Zip. Zero. Nada.
Instead, these protesters in Los Angeles targeted a wildly popular and successful coach for the most beloved franchise in the city’s history in an attempt to force him and the organization to take a stand.
Now, it seems like people against the law are just flailing wildly at anything that moves in any other direction than complete anger toward the state of Arizona, and it’s marginalizing, bit by bit, an issue and group of people that should not, cannot, be ignored or written off. It is simply too important.
As a man with lefty leanings of my own, I’m extremely disappointed.