In another example of athletes taking leadership on social issues, the star player and general manager of the Phoenix Suns just criticized SB 1070, the Arizona immigration law passed last week. And in a political statement, the team will wear jerseys with the words “Los Suns” on them tomorrow night, on Cinco de Mayo, in Game 2 of their Western Conference playoff series against the San Antonio Spurs.

Steve Nash, the Canadian-born point guard for the Suns, called the bill “very misguided”:

“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,” Nash said of the bill. “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.” […]

Steven Nash was well aware of the perception the recent bill created for Arizona and that seemed to play a role in his decision, “It doesn’t feel good to have people around the world and around the country look at our state as less than equal, less than fair. As proud citizen of this state, I want us to be held be held in the highest esteem. I think we have a lot of great attributes and a lot of great people and I think we need to be very cautious in how we respect our civil liberties and the tone we’re setting and the precedents we’re setting moving forward.”

Kerr, the GM and former player with the Suns and Jordan-era Chicago Bulls, said the move to the “Los Suns” jerseys was intended to “celebrate the diversity that exists in our state and exists in the NBA.” The rest of the team, along with the opposing San Antonio Spurs, agreed with the decision.

As I have noted before, for a variety of reasons sports has often led on issues like these, across the country and in Arizona. As the state faces increasing pressure and a backlash to their law, expect more franchises to speak out against it, with an eventual impact on the state’s bottom line.

UPDATE: and MoveOn are calling on MLB Commissioner Bud Selig to move the 2011 baseball All-Star Game away from its scheduled site of Phoenix. At least one prominent Latino player, San Diego’s Adrian Gonzalez, said he wouldn’t attend the game if it were held there.

David Dayen

David Dayen