Monday, July 9, 2012

Dave Zirin: Steve Nash to the Lakers: The Political Impact

Steve Nash to the Lakers: The Political Impact

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.

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  • Hi Dave, I love your column and have read most of your books ever since I first read your "Louder than a bomb" pieces in SLAM. Am I mistaken or are you wrong? I just saw Marc Stein on Sportscenter proclaim that Nash had signed with the Knicks. As for the rest of article, I loved it. Keep on being the pain in the ass you seem to be to "conservative" America. Much love from Berlin, Germany, Jan
Hopefully_Clear_Thoughts 1 comment collapsed CollapseExpand
  • Ok I will explain professional sports one more time. It is entertainment. For TV it is content. The players are not role models. They have no special wisdom. They are very good at performing with a ball of different shapes. The reason they get paid such outragous salaries is they can generate even greater profits for their employers. Not because they are particularly bright, moral or even honest. (see New Orleans Saints)
    Since they are not valued for their wisdom, they reduce their value to the owners when they speak out about political views. There are people who watch entertainers who will take exception to an entertainer's political views and stop supporting them. Dixie Chicks? They were doing well until one of them blasted GW Bush. Now they are pariahs to the country radio crowd. The same goes for ball players.

  • Bill Barclay 1 comment collapsed CollapseExpand

    Amazing - an athlete who actually thinks and is capable of putting two coherent sentences together about something other than his/her game performance. Ok, I'm being a little to hard on them, but: GO Steve. And the fact that he is from a sane country - Canada - probably has a lot to do with it.

  • jedi_mindtrick 1 comment collapsed CollapseExpand
  • One more for the road....(to perdition?)...

    Speaking of Chris Nash's honesty regarding America's ongoing Stoopid Wars, here are a couple of links to update you on how stuck on sToOpiD we really are.....this cannot end well, folks.

    In the post-9/11 era, the military-industrial complex has been thoroughly mobilized under the rubric of "privatization" and now goes to war with the Pentagon. With its $80 billion-plus budget, the intelligence bureaucracy has simply exploded. There are so many competing agencies and outfits, surrounded by a universe of private intelligence contractors, all enswathed in a penumbra of secrecy, and they have grown so large, mainly under the Pentagon's aegis, that you could say intelligence is now a ruling way of life in Washington -- and it, too, is being thoroughly militarized. Even the once-civilian CIA has undergone a process of para-militarization and now runs its own "covert" drone wars in Pakistan and elsewhere....

    In a sense, even the military has been "militarized." In these last years, a secret army of special operations forces, 60,000 or more strong and still expanding, has grown like an incubus inside the regular armed forces. As the CIA's drones have become the president's private air force, so the special ops troops are his private army, and are now given free rein to go about the business of war in their own cocoon of secrecy in areas far removed from what are normally considered America's war zones.

    The Obama administration has, in fact, doubled down again and again on this new way of war - from Africa to the Greater Middle East to South America - but what looks today like a recipe for easy power projection that will further US interests on the cheap could soon prove to be an unmitigated disaster - one that likely won't be apparent until it's too late.

    The US war in Pakistan is a veritable poster-child for the Obama formula. Beginning as a limited drone assassination campaign backed by limited cross-border commando raids under the Bush administration, US operations in Pakistan have expanded into something close to a full-scale robotic air war, complemented by cross-border helicopter attacks, CIA-funded "kill teams" of Afghan proxy forces, as well as boots-on-the-ground missions by elite special operations forces, including the SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden...


    Oh, and last but not least here's a short video link (from the Rachel Maddow Show) that uncovers fascinating footage of drone strike destruction to a poor community in North Waziristan (Pakistan):


  • jedi_mindtrick 1 comment collapsed CollapseExpand

    From the article:

    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."

    End quote.

    How ridiculous....telling the plain simple truth, that is. [Figures, the guy is a Canadian.]


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  • [From the "submerged before its time" file. A repost of my reply to Zirin's exceedingly fine 4th of July encomium to Frederick Douglass.]

    What a Wonderful World

    Outstanding contribution with this superb Douglass work, Dave.

    Interestingly, there is an ad for the USMC appearing on this page as I write which states, "Honoring the communities we proudly DEFEND." It features the picture of a handsome "dark green" --i.e. black-- Marine officer with a healthy "fruit salad" of ribbons on his dress blues uniform. It is, of course, no accident that the word "defend", in the catch phrase, is boldly capitalized in a larger font than the preceeding words.

    The heavy rotation ad of choice on television these days for the USMC features a CGI heavy depiction of a beach landing by the Marines, and it showcases most of the Marine Corps' favorite "toys" including LCACs (hovercraft), LAVs (light armored vehicles), Huey cobra attack helicopters, Harrier jump jets, and FA-18 Hornet fighter jets. But the, sort of, side splitter is the introductory sound effects (as the landing begins) of (more or less) children-on-the-playground, squealing noises. The denouement of this exercise in state of the art propaganda features camouflage-painted, heavy transport trucks laden with large boxes labeled, "AID".

    Adding to the pile of late is a commercial for Lockheed Martin --I witnessed it during the excellent, "Up With Chris Hayes", program on MSNBC-- that featured sexy snapshots of much of their high tech military manufacturing, emphasizing how they support our economy, and more importantly, "keep us safe". It closes with the precious, delicate, lily white hands and fingers of a young girl practicing her piano lessons in what looks like a comfortably well-off home.

    But perhaps my favorite television ad --shouldn't there be a separate, specialized anti-Oscar ceremony for this stuff?-- has been one for the Marines that's appeared in heavy rotation on the Fox Soccer channel in recent months. It showcases a baby-faced African-American Marine captain with his home town of Detroit, his parents, and domicile featured with the message that he is proud to defend his home community. It doesn't get much more bizzare than that, frankly --anyone here ever driven through a random sampling of Detroit's neighborhoods?

    The irony in these various snapshots of American mis, and disinformation today is so rich you might need the latest in high tech, aerodynamic body suits to move about in such a thickly viscous fluid of balderdash.

    And of course, I've simply pointed out the more ridiculously obvious content that envelopes us like a suffocating, mid-July day in middle America during the Great After-Truth Age of global political, economic and climatological chaos.

    Peace and vale, ~Jed T.


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