Anyway, the "Los Suns" jerseys -- available online! -- were hauled out again so the team owner and the National Basketball Association could make their protest gesture. At the time, the Reuters article notes, Lakers coach Phil Jackson suggested that teams shouldn't get involved in "the political stuff." Jackson actually voiced support for the law, noting that the NBA prohibited him from wearing his Bill Bradley for President button.
So, will the Lakers now wear jerseys sporting "Los Lakers?" Will they use actual Spanish words and be Los Laguñeros -- "laguñeros" itself being kind of a guess because I don't know if "Lakers" really translates into Spanish. Will they go full out and be Los Laguñeros de Los Angeles? Probably not. Based on Jackson's earlier words and the lack of comment by team members, it seems like they want to play basketball and win a title. They're the Lakers and I will root against them unless they're playing against Goering, Goebbels, Hitler, Stalin and Mao, but I'll leave them to their game.
What interested me was that the writer, Lucy Nicholson, as well as the people she interviewed, seemed to think only of symbolic gestures. She says, at one point, "Obviously, it would be absurd to expect the Lakers to boycott their series with the Suns." Why? Why, if they feel the law is wrong, should they not make a meaningful gesture? The law, opponents say, is going to put an unfair burden on not only illegal immigrants but also lawful residents and even U.S. citizens who have dark skin or speak with Latino accents. So if you want to show some real solidarity, then take on an unfair burden of your own. The Lakers have the home-court advantage, meaning four of the games will be played in Los Angeles and three in Phoenix. Were they to boycott the games in Phoenix, the most logical outcome is that they would forfeit those three games. They could still win the series, but even if they lost they could still demonstrate solidarity with the people whose side they're supposed to be taking.
Now, of course I think that would be a silly thing to do, and I'm really more on board with Jackson's comments about sports teams not getting involved in politics. What sticks out to me is that we have here yet one more call for an empty gesture, either supporting or opposing something. African-Americans who boycotted buses in Montgomery during the 1950s had to walk where they were going instead. Other civil rights protesters were arrested and imprisoned for sitting at lunch counters (Martin Luther King's letter, you may remember, was from the Birmingham jail.) Chinese citizens who wanted a voice in their government faced down tanks at Tiananmen Square.
But few people today seem to have in mind making any kind of statement that might risk or cost anything. During the 2008 presidential election, I saw a number of people on Facebook "donate their status" to one candidate or another. What a joke. Today, I frequently see people join Facebook groups that say "One million for" this or that, or "I bet I can find (random large-sounding number) who (agree with/oppose this statement/person/idea/situation)." It seems rarer and rarer to find causes, actions or ideas which motivate people to put skin in the game, or maybe it's rare to find people who want to do that. I'm probably just as guilty in a lot of ways, so maybe someone else should be giving this pep talk.
Maybe it'd be a great idea for the Lakers to refuse to travel to Phoenix and forfeit all three of those games. Maybe it wouldn't. But I guarantee you I would pay more attention to what they said they believed in if they did that than if they just wore some different words on their uniform shirts.