The NBA opened its 2016-17 season with a record 101 foreign-born players on the rosters.
In the wake of recent unrest regarding Donald Trump’s executive order banning travel to the United States for people from seven countries, the league has gotten understandably nervous.
Two of its stars, Luol Dengof the Lakers and rookie Thon Maker of the Bucks, have ties to one of the seven countries, Sudan. The league also has almost half a dozen former players who were born in the countries included in the ban: Sudan, Somalia, Libya, Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Iran.
The ruling has been stayed by federal judges, but it’s unclear whether the legal finding will actually help to settle the unrest that has resulted in protests all across the country, most notably in airports.
The NBA reached out to the State Department Saturday with concern over how the Trump executive order — and possibly more to follow — could affect them.
“The National Basketball Association has contacted the State Department to understand how President Donald Trump’s executive order to suspend immigration from seven countries could impact the league’s players,” NBA spokesman Mike Bass told The Vertical.”The NBA has two active players, including Milwaukee Bucks rookie Thon Maker and Los Angeles Lakers veteran Luol Deng, who have Sudanese roots. The NBA is a global league and we are proud to attract the very best players from around the world.”
A bevy of NBA players, former players and executives have spoken out, including Steve Nash, Jeremy Lin, EnesKantorand Muslim member of the Brooklyn Nets Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.
Hollis-Jefferson grew up near Philadelphia and his brother Rahlil played college basketball at Temple. He emotionally addressed the news media calling the situation “BS.”
“We try to teach people not to point the finger, blame a whole [group]. You can’t judge a whole group by one’s actions at the end of the day. And I feel like that’s not right. That’s definitely not right,’’ Hollis-Jefferson said Saturday before they faced the Timberwolves. “You can’t speak for all Muslims, because all Muslims’ hearts aren’t like that. Most of them are pure, really believe in a different way and a different livelihood.”
The forward turned away, fighting off tears before he continued.
“This is kind of hard. My bad. This is kind of touching … just being a part of that community and a part of that family,’’ Hollis-Jefferson said. “I feel like this should definitely be handled differently, and I feel like more people should definitely speak up and act on it just because it’s BS at the end of the day.”
It’s clear that if travel bans like this continue, work forces in America’s major sports leagues will be effected — in the same manner that Americans from all walks of life have already been effected. The diverse NBA will no doubt continue to be in the headlines as the situation progresses.