Thon Maker is a reserve rookie center for the Milwaukee Bucks, drafted with the tenth overall pick in last April draft and is projected to becoming a talented big man in the NBA in time. You see, in his adopted home of Australia, Maker played soccer before giving his focus onto basketball. He was moved there when he was five when his younger brother and aunt escaped the civil war in his birthplace of South Sudan.
This past weekend President Trump enacted an executive order that might mean the deportation of a number of major sports figures (especially athletes). Since then, the move had been pick apart in the sports community. The NBA, which has a large international population and two current players, Maker and All-Star forward Luol Deng who were born in the Sudan.
Now this isn’t obvious the first time that international politics are put into play in the sporting world. This past year, the Oklahoma City Thunders Turkish center Enes Kanter, discussed how his support for Fethullah Gulen and opposition to the Turkish president has led to his family disowning him. Former Kansas City Chiefs safety and Muslim American Husain Abdullah commented on the ban, saying
“When it comes to what’s going on socially, he’s (Trump) spread a lot of hate. Yes, we have to have immigration laws, but everyone has to be subject to the same laws. When you start to discriminate against people based on their religion, that becomes a huge issue.”
Former NBA center and Muslim American, Nazr Mohammed’s tweet following the order speaks volume of the pain and betrayal he feels.
“It’s a tough day when u find out that so many ppl that u thought were fans or friends really hate u and everything u believe in.”
Some of the athletes who will be affected (until the P-1 visa is added to the exemption list) are Justin Meram (born in the US but a member of the Iraq National Soccer Team), Yves Atallah (ATV Racer), Abdul Feghali (stunt driver), and Deng and Maker.
The main point of the order is to ban immigrants from seven Middle Eastern countries (Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen, and Somalia – Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and Libya for the next 90 days and Syrian refugees until further notice), but the way it is done is what may cause some athletes (and many others) to be deported and is what should be looked at.
The first two sections deal with the “why” of the executive order (highlighting how it is the job of the government to protect its citizens from terrorist threats and how visas are a part of the process that need to be more heavily monitored) and are basically the thesis statement of the order.
The effects of the Immigration Ban could easily be gone around if President Trump were to add one kind of visa to the exemption list in Section 3 – the P-1 visa, which the vast majority of athletes who are from other countries have in their possession. (The P-1 visa applies to all people who “perform at a specific athletic competition as an athlete, individually or as part of a team, at an internationally recognized level of performance”. These visas would be easy to apply for for most any sports figures who perform at “an internationally recognized level”.)
The immigration ban was signed on Jan. 27. On Jan 28, Maker and the Bucks were in Toronto, playing the Raptors in their final game outside the US of the regular season. Bucks Vice President Alexander Lasry took to Twitter to calm fans concerned with Maker’s status, assuring fans that Maker was on the team plane back to Milwaukee, his take on the controversial executive order, and talking about his father, Bucks owner Marc Lasry who emigrated to the US from Morocco.
“We must continue to share the stories of incredible immigrants and refugees who make America GREAT. Proud that Thon and my dad. Will be shining examples every day.”