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The new Arizona law regarding illegal immigration is causing quite a bit of controversy these days. And that controversy is making its way into the world of professional sports. During Game 2 of the NBA western conference semifinals, the Phoenix Suns wore their “Los Suns” jerseys to voice their opposition to the law, coordinating with a written statement against it, and were supported by the NBA Players Association for their efforts. Other teams and players have also spoken out against the law, which is being heavily criticized for promoting racial profiling.  This includes the MLB Players Association (Major League Baseball Players Association), where over half the teams hold spring training in Arizona and significant amount of their players are foreign born. They issued a statement saying:

The Major League Baseball Players Association opposes this law as written. We hope that the law is repealed or modified promptly. If the current law goes into effect, the MLBPA will consider additional steps necessary to protect the rights and interests of our members.

However, not everyone in the sports world is taking a side to the issue. Laker’s head coach Phil Jackson claimed in a recent interview that he chooses for him and his team to stay out of the debate saying, “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.”

Laker’s spokesperson, John Black, said the organization will stay away from political statements. “Our focus and goal at this time is on basketball, winning games, and hopefully winning another championship, which we feel the vast majority of our fans want us to focus on.”

So is that what sports is all about? Winning games and providing entertainment for their fans? (I personally do NOT agree with this, especially from a PR perspective). Or is it about speaking up for a group of people that also represent a good portion of their fans, players and employees? Is taking a stance being socially responsible or crossing the line?

This is where public relations comes into play and faces questions like these. Do you stand up and defend a portion of your community, like the Hispanic and Latino population? Or do you choose not to become politically involved, claiming neutrality? Either way, the decision will alienate a portion of their audience and brings up some tough PR decisions.

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