Steve Nash to the Lakers: The Political Impact
By Dave Zirin
July 5, 2012
In explosive sports news that upstaged even the
fireworks on the Fourth of July, the Los Angeles
Lakers announced that they had traded for Phoenix
Suns All-Star point guard and two-time Most
Valuable Player Steve Nash. Nash, even at the ripe
old age of 38, is still among the best in the
sport-having averaged twelve points and almost
eleven assists in 2012. He's also arguably the finest
shooter of his generation, with staggering lifetime
shooting percentages of 49 percent from the field, 43
percent from three-point land, and over 90 percent
from the foul line.
Understandably people are already recalibrating the
2012-2013 season, wondering if Nash and his
future Hall-of-Fame teammate Kobe Bryant can not
only co-exist but compete for a championship. I'm
personally wondering how Nash will look in purple
and gold, which is as bizarrely unsettling as
picturing Magic Johnson in Celtics green. I also am
genuinely flummoxed about how Nash's unique skill
set, which involves dribbling all around the half
court until finding an open shooter, will mesh with
Kobe's Bryant's desire to be genetically fused with
the ball like Jeff Goldblum with the eponymous
insect in The Fly.
But a less discussed question is the political impact,
if any at all, of Steve Nash playing in the white-hot
spotlight of Laker-Land. Nash has played most of his
career in Arizona, the state Jon Stewart once
described as "The Meth Lab of American
Democracy." More than perhaps any elected official
in the state, Nash has stood out as a voice of sanity.
He spoke out against the troop escalations during
the Bush wars, wearing a T-shirt that read, "No war.
Shoot for peace." Nash said he choose to wear the
shirt because, "I think that war is wrong in 99.9
percent of all cases. I think [Operation Iraqi
Freedom] has much more to do with oil or some sort
of distraction.. Unfortunately, this is more about
oil than it is about nuclear weapons." Nash has also
spoken out for LGBT Marriage Equality, recording
commercials in New York State when the legislature
was considering legalization. This is a pro athlete
who admitted casually to reading The Communist
Manifesto as a way to better understand Che
Guevara. I wish that wasn't a controversial thing to
say, but it is and he said it.
But above all else, he's also is the player responsible
for organizing his Suns squad to speak out against
Governor Jam Brewer's radical, "papers please" anti-
immigration bill, SB 1070. On Cinco de Mayo in
2010, Nash organized the entire team to wear
jerseys that read Los Suns. He said, "I think the law
is very misguided. I think it is unfortunately to the
detriment to our society and our civil liberties and I
think it is very important for us to stand up for
things we believe in. I think the law obviously can
target opportunities for racial profiling. Things we
don't want to see and don't need to see in 2010."
One person who didn't like what they had to say,
however, was Lakers coach Phil Jackson.
In an interview with ESPN, Jackson spoke out 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 writer J.A. Adande
remarked that SB 1070 could mean "the usurping of
federal law," Jackson said, "It's not usurping.. they
gave it some teeth to be able to enforce it."
Jackson, the ex-'60s radical, then challenged the
Phoenix Suns right to even talk about it, saying.
"I don't think teams should get involved in the
political stuff. 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."
But Phil might have been one of the few people in
Los Angeles who didn't like Los Suns.The Los
Angeles city council condemned Arizona, voting
13-1 to "ban most city travel there and to forgo
future business contracts with companies
headquartered in the state." Now it's rumored that
Phil Jackson might come back and actually coach
the Lakers. Jackson is famous-or infamous-for
assigning books to players to read. Maybe if he
comes back, Nash could suggest something to him.
[Dave Zirin is the author of "The John Carlos Story"
(Haymarket). Receive his column every week by
emailing [log in to unmask] Contact him at
[log in to unmask]
Portside aims to provide material of interest to people
on the left that will help them to interpret the world
and to change it.
Submit via email: [log in to unmask]
Submit via the Web: http://portside.org/submittous3
Frequently asked questions: http://portside.org/faq
Search Portside archives: http://portside.org/archive
Contribute to Portside: https://portside.org/donate