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Lakers Coach Phil Jackson says he has 'respect' for those fighting Arizona's immigration law

Los Angeles Lakers Coach Phil Jackson, responding to criticism for his comments about Arizona’s crackdown on illegal immigration, released a statement Monday saying he has “respect” for those who are opposing the law.

“I’ve been involved in a number of progressive political issues over the years and I support those who stand up for their beliefs. It is what makes this country great,” he said in his statement.

“I have respect for those who oppose the new Arizona immigration law, but I am wary of putting entire sports organizations in the middle of political controversies. This was the message of my statement. I know others feel differently, even in the Lakers organization, but it was a personal statement. In this regard, it is my wish that this statement not be used by either side to rally activists.”

Activists plan to rally outside Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles before Monday’s playoff opener against the Phoenix Suns.

“The way we look at it, Phil Jackson is supporting the Arizona law,” said Mario Gonzalez, a longtime Lakers fan and rally organizer. “That’s surprising. It caught us off guard. We want to find out where the team stands on the law.”

John Black, the Lakers” vice president for public relations, did not respond to telephone messages seeking comment.

Sparking the furor are remarks made by Jackson to ESPN.com columnist J.A. Adande in which the Lakers coach seems to back the incendiary Arizona law, which allows local police to check citizens documents and arrest them if they don't have them.

“Am I crazy, or am I the only one that heard [the legislature] say, ‘We just took the United States immigration law and adopted it to our state?’” Jackson said of the Arizona statute.

The Lakers coach then disputed the columnist’s assertion that Arizona legislatures had “usurped” federal immigration law -- an allegation widely made by critics who say the law could lead to racial profiling of Latinos.

Supporters say the state law complements federal statutes and deny any intent to target Latinos.

“It’s not usurping” federal law, Jackson replied, adding that the Arizona lawmakers “gave it some teeth to be able to enforce it.”

Jackson, long known as a free spirit who in Adande’s words “has showed lefty leanings in the past,” also seems to chastise the Suns’ management for its criticism of the Arizona law.

The Suns’ owner and several players have publicly criticized the statute.

“I don’t think teams should get involved in the political stuff,” Jackson told the ESPN.com columnist. “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.”

Gonzalez, the protest organizer, said Monday’s rally was not meant as a call to boycott the Lakers or root against the L.A. squad in its push to repeat as league champions. Rather, he said, the action is aimed at condemning Jackson’s apparent support for the Arizona law and clarifying Lakers management’s opinion on the matter.

“We want to know the team and Phil Jackson’s opinion on the law,” Gonzalez said.

Supporters of the rally said they wanted to give Jackson and the Lakers the opportunity to clarify their position on the Arizona law. Activists voiced the hope that both the Lakers and Jackson would follow the Suns’ example and come out against Arizona’s plan.

“We want to give Phil Jackson the benefit of the doubt,” said Nativo Lopez, head of the Mexican American Political Assn. “There are nuances here that Phil Jackson perhaps is not familiar with. He’s an expert at basketball but not at immigration law.”

-- Patrick J. McDonnell

Comments () | Archives (83)

hmm I'm a white guy in my mid-40's and have over the years had plenty of interactions good and bad with law enforcement officers.

Not once was I NOT asked for my personal identification.

Why should anyone not also be required to produce the same documentation I am required to provide to law enforcement?

All this rigamarole is ridiculous - Phil should only be held accountable for his job on the court, and the folks protesting this law in another state need to look at just how much of a big deal it really is NOT.

I agree with Phil and think it's in bad taste for the Suns to make a political statement like that. Just play ball. And regarding the people planning to protest at the Lakers game, get a hobby and stop calling anyone who disagrees with you a racist. That card is so overplayed. Lakers in 6!

I'M A MEXICAN-AMERICAN THAT LIVES IN A BORDER AREA IN SAN DIEGO AND TIJUANA I DONT SUPPORT THE CURRENT LAW OF ARIZONA, the U.S has every right TO PROTECTS ITS BORDERS the way Mexico is protecting the southern border with guatemala . But what I do support is that us hispanics need to learn thw way this country great country founded is with THE RIGHT TO VOTE if people dont like the the current law tha changed yourself by becoming citizens and voting

THE LAW IS FOR ALL ILLEGAL ALIENS and not JUST MEXICANS..AMAZING THE ILLEGAL MEXICANS DONT UNDERSTAND IT AND ITS OBVIOUS WHY..FIRST THEY GET A TON OF BENEFITS FOR FREE THEY DONT get in mexico and obviously dont want to go through the legal process..again the immigration law is for ALL ILLEGAL ALIENS that think that America is the land of the free,,meaning free benfits without paying taxes of which all illegal immigrants have done for the past forty years..

Phil isn't staying out of the politcal fray due to not mixing sports and politics. It's been done before and will be done again. No the reason is pure and simple: $$$ Corporate sponsorships.

It's corporate sponsorships that buy the tickets to the games...but that's not who buys and supports all the products the sponsorships sells. So on the one hand Phil will make the sponsorships happy, but on the other hand he will make those who buy the Jerseys, flags, etc unhappy.

Phils in a no win.

This is such a ridiculous turn of events. Our Lakers and Phil Jackson have NOTHING to do with immigration law. To hold a rally, and demand to know their political stance, on game 1 of the Western Conference Finals is not only insulting but it's just down right childish!

It's a wonderful thing that we are able to voice our beliefs and have freedom of speech here, but that does NOT give us an excuse to lose our manners and class! Support our Lakers by bringing positivity to Staples Center, not these childish rallies.

And yes, I am a proud LEGAL latina :)

"I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it." (Voltaire)

Get a clue! Phil was responding to the statements made by Steve Nash of the Suns. Nash and the Suns are the ones that interjected this into the NBA. Phil was just responding in a rational,truthful and factual manner. Nash and the Suns owner, just like Attorney General Holder...had no clue what the bill actually stated and were just going off the hysteria of the open borders, La Raza crowd. They are the ones that should be called out.

Why are illegals here in the US in the first place? For the most part, they are here looking for work to better their lives and family. Yes they broke the law by crossing the border illegally but those who employ them are breaking the law too!! Why not enforce a law that places people who employ illegals in JAIL. This way you cut the source that draws them here and will open up jobs for us who are here legally.
The AZ law allows for profiling and pit neighbors vs neighbors.

to Mexicano Y Americano y QUE! -- The U.S. did not THREATEN to boycott the Olympics. We DID boycott the games. You should ask the American athletes who spent their lives preparing for the competition how that worked out for them. (Hint: not well.)

In America, we respect the rights of individuals to hold disparate opinions and to express them publicly if they CHOOSE to.


Sorry. I support the Arizona law and I think Phil was right in his statements. There is no racism involved in supporting a law that finds illegal aliens (of any nationality) to be criminals. Keep the politics out of professional sports.

There are two opinions on this topic and not all Laker fans are against the Arizona law. Seems the loud mouths who seem to be the darlings of the media.

I withdraw my support for the protesters. They are beginning to look like the teabaggers.

Have we forgotten that one has constitutional if he or she was born in the United States of America; or if he or she has obtained their citizenship through the proper channels of our society. No one is signaling out Latinos, this law is applicable to all who are not legal in the USA. Why are those who believe it is time for us to control our borders are being looked upon as being racist. I truly feel the law has nothing to do with being a racist. I believe we must gain control of all illegals who've entered into our country with out proper documentation. We as Americans must have either California ID or Drivers License, so why the debat. I being an American can I go to another country with out proper documentation: will I get a job, education, housing, medical etc. with out being doucmented? I do believe we're not looking at the big pictur. Explain our economy here in California, our economy has a lot to do with monies undocumented workers have earned without taxes being taken out of their checks, I've seen many of them come here to have their babies once they've hit the third trimester and get aid for those children, where did we drop the ball?

There SHOULD be a separation of politics and sports. Politics has NEVER played a role in sports and it should stay that way...


because Jackie Robinson or Muhammad Ali would agree that sports are completely apolitical... right...

The Zen master has a right to comment whether or not we like his opinion. People attacking him, as a racist, don't know what racism is. Phil is a great coach, but he doesn't represent the Lakers. And don't even try to get Dr. Buss on politics;the good Dr. is the best owner in sports because he nevers get involved in politics. What do these people want? a Mark Cuban owner? Leave sports alone and stop trying to make this game about "the cause". Don't these people know that this protest is counteractive and probably will hurt them in the long run.

Bush championed an immigration law that would have solved the immigration problem. Right wingers sabotaged it. They do not want a solution. They like making hay out of the problem. All problems keep the ratings up for Fox, Rush, and other media types. They do not want solutions.

Even if you are against the Arizona Immigration law, this protest at Staples before the game is counterproductive, and is sure to be seen by most of the public as shrill, immature public grandstanding. It is more likely to turn people in favor of the Arizona law than against it. What difference does it make what Phil Jackson or Lakers Management think about the issue? Seems like a totally random connection. Did you ask the Oakland Raiders, Toys R Us, or local YMCA what they though about it? How about PETA? How about Jared the Subway guy? Do we really need to know what EVERY entity on the planet thinks about the Arizona Immigration law? If you want to have a rally, that makes sense, but connecting it to some non-sequitur childish demand to know the Lakers position on the issue is bizarre. And why aren't you demanding to know the Lakers position on prop. 8 or global warming?

People who are against the law are trying to use any leverage they can to gain attention to their position, a statement from a public figure such as Phil Jackson is just what they are looking for......if their is postion is everyone here has a right to be here, shouldn't everyone here have a right to his or her opinion without taking all sorts of backlash?? Phil is right, sports has no place in politics.....

If you don't want illegals here, it might be a good idea to STOP HIRING THEM. Read: Get off your lazy pasty butts and pick your own vegetables, mow your own lawns, cook your own food, etc.

You might also want to boycott all the companies that DO hire illegals, which is pretty most all of them.

Yeah. Didn't think so.

Zen Master needs to shut his pie hole and concentrate in beating the Suns.

"Illegals" are not the problem. We're waging a war that has no direct relation to 9/11; siphoning out trillions of $$$ that should have been spent/invested domestically. Scapegoating 'illegals' for our own failures is too darn cheap.

Phil Jackson's opinion is political just by the fact that he replied to the question. If he didn't want to mix basketball with politics he should have kept his mouth shut. He could easily have said, "no comment." People would have understood. Or, at least have said he would wait until after the playoffs were over to address the issue.

Once he stuck his foot in it, his comments are fair game. He's wrong to say that politics don't have a place in sports. Really? Tell that to Jackie Robinson, Billie Jean King, Arthur Ashe, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, Jesse Owens, and the list goes on. There was even a recent movie about politics and sports in South Africa called Invictus with Matt Damon. And waring parties have been known to call a truce to play soccer.

I applaud Phoenix for making a very simple, but bold statement of wearing their Los Suns jerseys. I only wished the Lakers had the "pelotas" to do it as well considering that they represent a city with a Spanish name and where the majority of it's residents are Latino-Americans.

Yuri, Joe, Roger, Phyllis etc
This law does ABSOLUTELY nothing to enforce immigration laws. It is just another right wing political ploy to win votes. Its typical right wing propaganda using a group of people as scapegoats for the ills of this nation. Corporate greed and two needless wars r the reason for the problems we are currently facing! People who are here legally even illegally are not the problem. They actually contribute more than they take! If AZ really wants to solve the "problem" then put to work all those people receiving welfare and unemployment funds out in the fields and restaurants and hotels where most immigrants work!
This law in AZ does nothing to solve the issues at hand. It does nothing to secure the border and does nothing to curve illegal immigration. Please dont fall for the propaganda! This law is just plain wrong!

It surprises me how quickly and easily many of you supporters of this law forget your own history! wow, very sad!

Its funny how Phil Jackson talks about teams shouldnt get involve in politics; and then he goes and open his mouth about the Arizona Law. He should follow his own advice

N.Lopez of MAPA is an Open Borders /Ethnocentric Race Warrior and its apparent that he can't stand anyone or anything that expresses a desire for the Immigration Laws of the USA to be enforced or our border with Mexico to be secured. It's no surprise that he will grasp at any straw even going after our Great home town Lakers Coach Phil Jackson who doesn't need to clarify anything !

I support Phil Jackson!

The public better wake up to this illegal immigration situation...these illegals and their advocates are causing anarchy in this country. How dare they come here and DEMAND anything.

Illegals shouldn't be getting ANY government assistance...as soon as you stop that drain...our states will be better off! Stop the section 8, welfare, free medical care and fees for colleges.

And this great city of ours...this sanctuary city...seems to be handing out permits for them to march up and down our downtown streets every time you turn around. City Hall...there are residents downtown...we have legal lives and need to be able to move freely in our own neighborhood. If they had protested in their own countries...which they proudly display their flags..then maybe they wouldn't have to start their lives here with an illegal act!

The United States is the only country in world where a person who does not speak the native language and who is not obviously a tourist will not be stopped and asked to produce his or her passport and visa (or local ID) and if they fail to do so, will be immediately arrested.

The penalty in Mexico for entering the country illegally (first offense) is five years hard labor followed by immediate deportation. If you do business in Mexico and do not have a work visa and the authorities find out about it, you are going to be arrested. I know of people who have been on vacation in Mexico but inadvertently carried product literature with them and were arrested for entering the country without a work visa and ended up spending a lot of money and considerable time in jail before the situation was resolved.

Those who call the United States racist for even thinking about enforcing some semblance of an immigration policy are either hypocrites or just don't know what they are talking about.

Personally, I have no beef with “illegals” trying to get into the United States anyway they can – most of us would do the same thing in their situation - and I have no problem with them being here until they show up at some county office trying to collect something for nothing. If you let the government do your stealing for you, it’s called redistribution. If you cut out the middleman, it’s called, well, stealing. Either way, though, it’s still stealing.

What is really amazing – even for the thieves - is the Reconquista movement. The Reconquistas are so confused that while the prospect of staying in, and working to develop and improve, their own country is unthinkable, as soon as they land in the United States, they want to “take it over” and turn into the same impoverished and corrupt oligarchy from which they just escaped. Now how much sense does that make?

The only explanation is that it is the Reconquistas who are so blinded by racism that they just want to see somebody in charge that more or less looks like them… even if that means giving up the freedom and opportunity they came here seeking the first place.

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