Lakers Coach Phil Jackson Slammed for Views on Arizona Law

Friday, 21 May 2010 01:15 PM

By James Hirsen

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Whenever celebrities express their opinions on controversial topics they take risks with their careers. That’s why movie mogul Jack Warner said, “If you want to give a message, send a telegram.”

But when Lakers coach Phil Jackson expressed tacit approval of Arizona's new immigration law, the Los Angeles press blew its collective fuse.

Torn between being leftists and being Lakers fans apparently creates a cognitive problem. Smoke could be seen coming out of the ears of reporters, politicians and public union members all over the Left Coast.

In fact, Los Angeles Times movie critic Tim Rutten could not restrain himself from using his column to write a piece that was not about cinema but instead dedicated to chastising a basketball coach.

In the piece Rutten urged Jackson and the Lakers team to join the Phoenix Suns in denouncing the new Arizona law despite the fact that the movie critic is a diehard Lakers lover and has been since he was a kid.

The angst of L.A. liberals who love the Lakers started when the Suns' owner and players declared solidarity with the liberal opponents of the Arizona law and wore jerseys that read "Los Suns" during a game on Cinco de Mayo.

Suns star Steve Nash, a two-time NBA most valuable player, slammed the law, calling it “terrible and totally misguided.”

Nash said the law would encourage racial profiling and claimed that it set “a very dangerous precedent.”

Jackson responded to Nash and the Suns, “I don't think teams should get involved in the political stuff," he said. "If I heard it right, the American people are really for stronger immigration laws.”

But then when the Lakers leader was asked by an ESPN columnist what he thought of the Arizona matter, Jackson replied, "Am I crazy, or am I the only one that heard [the Arizona legislature] say, ‘We just took the United States immigration law and adopted it to our state?’” Arizona lawmakers simply “gave it some teeth to be able to enforce it,” he added, upsetting L.A. lefties.

Film critic and now Jackson critic Rutten is apparently another in the long list of Arizona-haters who have not read the law. Rutten describes the Arizona statute as one “which can only be enforced through impermissible racial profiling of Latinos.”

Members of the Obama administration, who condemned Arizona's law, have now admitted that they never read it.

They demonized and mischaracterized legislation that clearly states that the police “may not consider race, color, or national origin,” and proscribes that they may only ask for ID if they have “lawful contact” with “lawful stop, detention, or arrest” and “reasonable suspicion” that a suspect is an illegal alien.

And the media strategically omits the truth about the reasons and contents of the Arizona law and consistently frames critics of the law as bigots.

Even Coach Jackson felt some pressure. After threats of protests to Los Angeles based Lakers/Suns playoff games, the Lakers press office issued a statement by Jackson where he spoke of his “respect for those who oppose the new Arizona immigration law,” but also said he was “wary of putting entire sports organizations in the middle of political controversies.”

But the conflicted film critic Rutten wrote that while he can't bring himself to root against the Lakers he won’t support them “unless the club formally repudiates Coach Phil Jackson's endorsement of Arizona's mean-spirited new anti-immigrant law.”

But then Rutten, in leftist tradition, couldn’t resist attacking Jackson personally.

He turned snarky, writing, “Frankly, Jackson's reputation as one of the NBA's deep thinkers always has seemed to me to owe more than a little to his impenetrably baroque syntax. Take the time to untangle his sentences and what emerges usually ranges from the banal to the incomprehensible.”

He insists that the Lakers players and the team's management distance themselves from what the film critic calls “Jackson's wrongheaded endorsement of a law whose implementation can only affront Latinos' constitutional rights.”

He warned that if the Lakers close their eyes to “Arizona's affront” then “at least one disappointed fan will be withholding his support, and inviting as many others as will listen to do the same.”

So far, there is no discernable lack of support for the Lakers in Hollywood since celebrities like Jack Nicholson, Tom Cruise, Jessica Alba, and Hillary Duff seem to want to be seen sitting in the best seats.

James Hirsen, J.D., M.A. in media psychology, is a New York Times best-selling author, commentator, media analyst, and law professor. He is admitted to practice in the U.S. Supreme Court and has made several appearances there on various landmark decisions. Hirsen is the co-founder and Chief Legal Counsel for InternationalEsq.com, a legal think tank and educational institute for the study of law in the media. Visit: Newsmax TV Hollywood




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