The NBA, its players and its coaches have waded into political waters in the months before and since the November election. But this week politics bled into the NBA when President Donald Trump signed an executive order temporarily limiting immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries.
Milwaukee Bucks rookie Thon Maker and Los Angeles Lakers veteran Luol Deng both are natives of Sudan, one of the countries subject to the temporary ban along with Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen.
The Bucks were concerned about Maker’s ability to travel freely with the team back to the United States from its game Friday in Toronto. The NBA released a statement saying it has contacted the State Department for information on how the restriction might affect personnel from the seven countries.
According to an ESPN report, there was no disruption to Maker’s or the Bucks’ itinerary back to Milwaukee:
Maker moved with his family to Australia in 2002, so he also has Australian citizenship and travels with an Australian passport. Still, there were concerns for Maker as the Bucks were returning from a Friday night game in Toronto just as Customs and Border Protection notified airlines about passengers whose visas had been canceled.
Bucks coach Jason Kidd, in announcing Saturday that Maker would start, confirmed that he had made it back to Milwaukee without incident. Maker had scored eight points and grabbed two rebounds in eight minutes of play in Friday night's 102-86 loss at Toronto, where Maker had lived for two years prior to being drafted in 2016 by Milwaukee. …
Deng was also born in Wau, Sudan, but like Maker has dual citizenship, having become a British citizen in 2006.
NBA spokesman Mike Bass issued the league’s statement to media outlets: "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. The NBA is a global league and we are proud to attract the very best players from around the world."
The NBA’s successful Basketball Without Borders program, for instance, has been credited with identifying and developing players from the Sudan. According to Yahoo! Sports The Vertical, several top Sudanese players “are attending American high scools and colleges on visas, and could become NBA draft picks.”