One of the most hotly debated topics of late is the travel restrictions implemented by Donald Trump. Recently it was blocked by a federal judge but a final decision is needed soon. The executive order calls for the halt of the U.S. refugee program, indefinite suspension of admission of refugees, and restricting the visitation of citizens from seven countries: Iran, Iraq, Lybia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. All of this was to be upheld for a minimum of 90 days.
There’s much support and much backlash for both sides. Although the safety of the American people is what seems to be at the heart of the restriction, it’s tough to rationalize when there are legitimate concerns about the morality and legality of the order. The Justice Department’s request to reinstate Trump’s immigration directive was denied by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
There have been concerns and rumbles across the sporting world. Many athletes currently play here in the U.S. on worker visas and are still citizens of their home nations. There are other athletes abroad who are U.S. citizens who may not be able to come back to the U.S. for an extended period of time.
Two notable NBA players with concerns about the executive order are the Los Angeles Lakers’ Luol Deng and the Milwaukee Bucks’ Thon Maker. Deng and Maker are both were born in Sudan and both fled the country at a young age.
Deng fled with his father to Egypt before being granted asylum in the United Kingdom. Deng is now a British citizen. At the age of five, Maker fled to Uganda with his younger brother and aunt. He was accepted into Australia as a refugee and is now a dual citizen of Australia and South Sudan. Dual citizens are in danger of being detained or deported upon U.S. return.
Both players and others in the NBA expressed their concern about re-entry to the country, such as when visiting Toronto, the one NBA franchise located outside of the country. The NBA may be in for a bit of a pinch in the upcoming All-Star weekend when they hold the annual Basketball Without Borders camp, where players are sometimes featured from countries on the restriction list. Last year, Iranian player Amir Reza Shah-Ravesh was part of the festivities.
As the intensity and longevity of this executive order unfolds, we’ll have to wait and see how the NBA and other global leagues respond. Many European soccer teams have players who are citizens of the restricted countries; their teams frequently play exhibition matches in the U.S. Professional tennis and golf players may also feel the extent of the executive order, as well as athletes across various sports.
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