In reaction to President Trump’s executive order suspending immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries, the NBA has contacted the State Department to try to determine how the order could potentially impact the league.
Two NBA players — Milwaukee Bucks forward Thon Maker and Los Angeles Lakers forward Luol Deng — have Sudanese roots, and the league does a significant amount of work overseas through its Basketball Without Borders program.
“We have reached out to the State Department and are in the process of gathering information to understand how this executive order would apply to players in our league who are from one of the impacted countries,” NBA spokesman Mike Bass said in a statement Saturday night. “The NBA is a global league and we are proud to attract the very best players from around the world.”
While a judge granted a request from the American Civil Liberties Union to stay the order on Saturday night, it remains to be seen if the order will wind up having an impact on either Deng or Maker as the season progresses. The Lakers have already played their one game of the season in Toronto, and given Los Angeles currently has one of the NBA’s worst records, barring a trade, it seems Deng will have no issues.
Milwaukee, as it happened, played in Toronto on Friday night, though Maker, who left Sudan — one of the seven countries on Trump’s list — as a small child and has an Australian passport, was able to return to the U.S. with his teammates without incident. The rookie forward started his second game of the season Saturday in an overtime loss at home to the Boston Celtics, scoring four points to go with two rebounds in 10 minutes.
“No,” Bucks Coach Jason Kidd told reporters in Milwaukee when asked if Maker had issues getting back into the country. “He’s starting. There are no issues.”
While the Bucks have now completed their regular season series in Toronto, there remains a very real possibility of the two teams meeting in the Eastern Conference playoffs, which could leave Makers’s status for future games in Toronto unclear.
Meanwhile, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, a second-year forward for the Brooklyn Nets who is Muslim, spoke out against Trump’s action before the Nets played in Minnesota on Saturday night.
“We try to teach people not to point the finger, blame a whole [group],” Hollis-Jefferson told reporters in Minneapolis before the game. “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. 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.
“I kind of feel like things could be handled differently. Me being Muslim, me knowing a lot of Muslims, it’s definitely, definitely heartbreaking to see. A lot of my college friends are Muslims, and their families are in some of those countries. Just seeing that, my heart goes out to them, how they feel about it and everything. It’s definitely a tough situation to put people in.”