Blurring the line between sports and politics risks

## ## ‘Los Suns’ Cinco de Mayo statement

The calendar provides ample reason for basketball’s Phoenix Suns to rename themselves “Los Suns” in their playoff game against the San Antonio Spurs tonight: It is Cinco de Mayo. But in truth, the calendar is merely providing the cover for the Suns’ protest against the tough new Arizona immigration law.

Steve Kerr, the Suns’ general manager, told the Arizona Republic that players felt it was their “duty” to make a statement about the Arizona law during a nationally televised event.

“It’s important that everyone in our state and nation understands that this is an issue that needs to be explored,” Mr. Kerr said. “So, we’re trying to expose it.”

The prospect of the Suns and their players making a bald political statement on the hardwood is rare enough. Blurring the line between sports and politics risks offending diverse fan bases, so it generally doesn’t happen.

But the decision also highlights a broader nation that holds splintered and often contradictory views toward its Hispanic community in general and illegal immigration in particular. For example, a majority of Americans support the Arizona law, according to several polls. But a majority of independents who occupy America’s political center support some form of amnesty for illegal immigrants already in the country, according to a recent poll by Ayres, McHenry Associates, Inc.

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An American ambivalence to Hispanics?Conservative columnist Ramesh Ponnuru of the National Review, puts it this way: “People are not interested in a message on immigration that seems personally hostile to immigrants, even to illegal immigrants,” according to the Daily Caller online newspaper.

Others see the reaction to the Arizona law, which allows police to ask those suspected to be in the state illegally for documentation, as part of a deeper ambivalence.

Baseball’s Arizona Diamondbacks have already been picketed during a recent game against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field, and there is some talk of organizing a boycott of the Major League Baseball All Star Game in Phoenix next year.

For their part, the Suns’ decision to become “Los Suns” Wednesday night is not unprecedented. In the past, various teams, including the Suns and Spurs, have used the Spanish version of their names on team jerseys as a way to market the sport to Latino fans.

But this time is clearly different. The spontaneity of the decision as a protest rather than a celebration of Cinco de Mayo is evident in the fact that the Spurs wanted to join in with “Los Spurs” jerseys of their own but ran out of time to make them.

The rise of Cinco de MayoThe fact the the Suns even have “Los Suns” jerseys is a testament to the steady rise of Hispanic influence on the nation’s sports, food, television, and with the popularity of Cinco de Mayo even its unofficial holidays.

Virtually unknown a few decades ago, Cinco de Mayo celebrates a ragtag Mexican Army’s unlikely victory against the French at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. More recently, it has played a major role in the acceptance of Hispanic culture and people in the US.

These days, Cinco de Mayo ranks alongside St. Patrick’s Day and Oktoberfest among voluntary cultural holidays. Celebrated even at the White House (George Bush invited a mariachi band one year), Cinco de Mayo is, in fact, a bigger holiday in the US than in Mexico.

At last year’s White House celebration (which Obama mistakenly dubbed “Cinco de Quatro,” or “Fifth of Four”), the president harked back to President John F. Kennedy’s visit to to Mexico. “When one of my predecessors once visited Mexico City, he said that ‘while geography has made us neighbors, tradition has made us friends. Economics has made us partners. And necessity has made us allies. two great and independent nations, united by hope instead of fear,'” Obama said.

It’s in that spirit that the Suns, on a plane trip back from Game 1, decided to don their “Los Suns” jerseys. Even the player’s association has endorsed the idea.

Macron presented himself, at 40 years old, to be the

Macron has made France Europe’s power broker

From white knuckle handshakes to basking in the pomp and circumstance of a military parade, French President Emmanuel Macron and US President Donald Trump have built a strong relationship. The pair have regular phone calls and later this week, Macron will become the first foreign leader to make an official state visit to the US since Trump took office.

So it was perhaps no great surprise when, in a two hour live interview by two high profile French journalists, Macron presented himself as the decisive factor behind President Trump’s policy in Syria.

“Ten days ago, President Trump said the USA’s will is to disengage from Syria. We convinced him that it was necessary to stay,” he said. “We convinced him that it was necessary to limit these strikes to chemical weapons site despite the media frenzy around the tweets, as you may remember.”

The remarks stood out in an otherwise grueling interrogation that drilled down on the nuts and bolts of French labor policy in addition to the strikes in Syria. Macron presented himself, at 40 years old, to be the elder statesman, advising a hotheaded US president: A Trump whisperer.

The White House was not happy and it did not take long for a ruffled response, downplaying Macron’s influence. The US mission in Syria “had not changed,” said White House press secretary Sarah Sanders in a statement.

“The President has been clear that he wants US forces to come home as quickly as possible. We are determined to completely crush ISIS and create the conditions that will prevent its return,” she said.

Macron’s words, however, did take the attention away from his domestic woes, which include several labor strikes. “Macron in battle mode” was the headline emblazoned across France’s Liberation newspaper which certainly sounded more presidential than the headline at Le Figaro: “Macron defends his steps in a confused debate.”

The interview was meant to mark one year since Macron’s landmark election victory. But the timing, just one day after the Syria strikes, meant it had also conveniently become the platform to explain to the French public why their President had ordered French jets and warships to fire a dozen missiles into Syria.

## ## By Monday morning, Macron was trying to spin his way out of the diplomatic faux pas: both agreeing with the White House and doubling down on his own statements.

“I did not say that neither the United States nor France was going to remain militarily committed in Syria,” he insisted in a news conference with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

“Yes, the White House is right in saying that the military engagement is against ISIS and will stop the day the war against ISIS will be over. France has the same position. But yes, I am right to say that the United States because they decided to make this intervention with us understood that our responsibility also goes beyond the war against ISIS.”

Macron wants to put France at center stage on world issues. In the days before the attack, Macron boldly said France had “proof” that the Syrian regime had carried out a chemical weapons attack on its own people, though he has yet to detail what that proof is.

The lys e Palace had also issued an unusual patriotic video promising the country “would shoulder its responsibility.”

Macron is a master of optics and like Trump, he uses Twitter to great effect. Rather than a heavy handed statement from the lys e announcing the strikes, he tweeted out photos of himself and his military commanders giving the order to strike Syria for “crossing the red line.”

Macron’s attempt to present himself as the level headed influence on Trump follows a pattern, in which Macron looks to be Europe’s most viable leader especially when it comes to leading the West’s diplomatic charge on Russia.

British Prime Minister Theresa May is locked in a diplomatic battle with Moscow over the poisoning of a former Russian spy on British soil.

She also faced the wrath of British lawmakers for failing to consult parliament before committing British forces. Macron, on the other hand, simply ignored his domestic critics, as they held a toothless debate without any vote at the National Assembly.

Germany’s Russian speaking Chancellor Angela Merkel previously played the role of broker between the United States and Russia. But Merkel, preoccupied with shoring up her weakened coalition after a disastrous election, has been supplanted by the energetic efforts of Macron.

Hours before ordering the strikes, Macron was on the phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin, reiterating his plan to visit Moscow in May.

Perhaps Macron overreached in describing his influence on Trump’s decision making process. But their steadfast relationship is in no doubt and his message to Moscow, and others, is clear: France is the power broker in Europe.

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