Pile of Dominoes
I really should have kept updating this site yesterday, but who am I kidding. This story blew up like trees filled with burning birds, and the news you needed was stuffed down your face by media outlets that could care less about sports. It was beautiful, and yes, maybe a little self-congratulatory for someone like me—sports actually mattered.
What's more, this whole thing has become rather self-evident. I don't know what happens next, but the meaning of this action couldn't be more explicit. There aren't many questions left to ask, or wrinkles to explore. This is the part where, with the Suns (and to some extent, the Spurs) ready to speak and act, we sit back and let them do so. We fall away and hopefully, the world becomes a better place
One thing that's been nagging me. Two, actually. Firstly, I never meant to belittle Steve Nash or his opposition to the Iraq War -- which, at the time he opposed it, didn't even exist. But while Nash's gesture was refreshing, it said more about sports, or its generally conservative (all senses) bent, than the actual arena of activism. His was one voice among many and after all, he is a longhair from a socialist country. This is different. As we've said several times, the stakes are much, much higher for Nash here -- or, to put it another way here, never will his voice, or the Suns voices, matter more than in this situation. Given Nash's popularity, the extent to which he's taken seriously, and the playoff run the team is on, this sports team really is one of more robust advocates this cause could enlist. I always assumed that Nash hated the bill, and yet I recognized what a firestorm he'd step into by speaking out. It was ground zero, the front lines, and any other military analogy you feel like employing. What made this so risky was exactly the extent to which, indeed, Suns activism would more than tokenism.
Then there's the whole bizarre institutional cover aspect of it. The Suns may or may not have said something previously, but it was only once Sarver brought it to the team and made his announcement that everyone really opened up. And really, it's genius. No one is fucking with an owner (Mark Cuban excluded). They are very often rich, powerful, and white beyond the wildest dreams of many who would criticize them. Players taking a stand? They're uppity, dumb athletes who should concentrate on sports, and spoiled millionaires. Owners are lords of this earth. The mere mortals who stand several rungs below them on the tax bracket just can't go around dismissing their opinions, since they have money and money is power. That was immature, I know, but it's unquestionable that Sarver not only made it okay for the Suns to mobilize (beyond his suggestions), but also for Billy Hunter to insert the Players Association into the conversation. Unions in sports should stick to contracts ... unless an owner, traditionally their adversaries, allow them to deflect attention back toward the right, or more charitably, the universal.
Still, it's pretty amazing that Billy Hunter's saying stuff like this: “It’s phenomenal. This makes it clear to me that it’s a new era. It’s a new time. Athletes can tend to be apolitical and isolated from the issues that impact the general public. But now here come the Suns. I would have expected nothing less from Steve Nash who has been out front on a number of issues over the years. I also want to recognize Amare. I know how strident Amare can be and I’m really impressed to see him channel his intensity. It shows a tremendous growth and maturity on his part. And I have to applaud Bob Sarver because he is really taking a risk by putting himself out there. I commend them. I just think it’s super.” That came from Dave Zirin's piece on the breaking story; a statement followed that, more formally, made it clear where Hunter's allegiances lie. The statement, which you can read here, was direct and focused on this issue. Speaking to Zirin, though, Hunter gushed.
You simply cannot ignore a phrase like "a new era." The new era may be players, and indeed an entire organization, turning political when their voices matter most. This is not a celebrity endorsement, or even players getting out the vote during last year's election. However breathlessly it's come together, we're now seeing an extremely strategic use of authority and power to make sports viable as a political entity. I also think we have to acknowledge that the league signed off on this, which goes all the way up to Stern. Who knows if any other players will weigh in, or how much the Suns will now be associated with this protest. These are exciting times, and I have no idea what's next—just that, whether or not we see another moment like this anytime soon, there's now a plan to action in place.
And oh yeah, fuck Phil Jackson, even if he is just trying to out-coach Gentry already. Also, would love to see some Suns fans try and boycott/boo their team, and then Phoenix go on and win this series.