Feb. 24, 2003
By Kevin Blackistone
Dallas Morning News
Kind of like some of the unorthodox shots he tosses up on mad rushes to the basket, (former Santa Clara basketball star) Steve Nash didn't think much about any possible negative consequences of what he was about to do. Wouldn't have cared if some had come to mind, anyway.
"Because, as a humanitarian and borderline pacifist to begin with, I was already very skeptical of war," Nash explained the other day in the soft voice that belies his intensity as the Mavericks' floor leader. "I think that in the year 2003, it's embarrassing that we're still pointing guns at one another and threatening each other with violence."
No, what he was about to do was important, he figured, really important. It did not concern a mere game. This was about life. It was about lives.
He'd been reading literature recommended to him by one of his best high school chums back in British Columbia. It wasn't grocery-store bestseller rack stuff, or the latest issues of some sports magazines. His good friend, Hemsa Nosh, is an activist, a peace activist, Nash pointed out. She was spearheading protests in Vancouver against her neighboring country to the south going to war with Iraq. Her reading list was filled with books and articles about globalization and United Nations sanctions and the developing world.
Nash started to pay more attention to newscasts and newspapers and magazines articles about the buildup to war against Iraq. He was educating himself, he said.
Soon, he became convinced that the decision of the government in his adopted country to go to war with Iraq was a bad one, and he wanted to let everyone know.
So on All-Star weekend media day, with his fellow All-Stars decked out in typical sports superstar garb like throwback jerseys, Nash, known for his grunge look, sported a simple T-shirt. It read: "No War. Shoot for Peace."
It was a wonderful statement, I thought.
"I realized that with minimal effort and education, I could have an incredible effect on the situation on her [Nosh], and help her group help the world, with very minimal work," Nash said, "just by wearing a T-shirt and voicing my opinion."
For the few who asked him about his T-shirt, mostly Canadian and European media, he explained his position dispassionately. He cited UN figures on the deleterious impact sanctions have had on Iraqi children. He pointed out how containment of Saddam Hussein has worked. On and on the point guard went about things that had nothing to do with points and assists and wins. He was written about in glowing terms from Vancouver to Edmonton to Montreal to Toronto and overseas. Here, he was mostly ignored, although a Mavericks spokesman said the club received a miniscule number of phone calls complaining of Nash's anti-war protest.
It wasn't until afterward, Nash said, that he realized the oddity he'd appeared to be.
"Everyone's like, athletes don't generally do this," Nash said. "I didn't think about that when I did it. I'd just been reading all this and I did it."
No, speaking out about something other than the game is something sports figures in this country run from, especially if the topic is something so controversial it is dividing a nation and the world. For those athletes who aren't so ignorant to what is going on outside their gated homes, the fear of alienating the ticket-buying, sneaker-wearing public is too great to share any serious thoughts.
Refreshingly, Nash has chosen a different path, like Arthur Ashe and Muhammad Ali and a few others before him. He's a new iconoclast for the new millennium.
"I don't necessarily want to sit here and bash [President] Bush or people who voted for him," Nash said. "I just stated my opinion to urge anyone to go out an educate themselves ... to stand up for what you believe in.
"And I'm not American. But I think this ... [war issue] goes much farther than countries, borders, boundaries and establishments. I think that is a major problem.
"We don't look at the world as a global community as much as we should. We don't consider people of other races, nationalities and religions and cultures with the same import as we do our fellow countrymen. And I think that is a fundamental mistake the world has."
Nash said he wishes he had a schedule right now that would allow him to be more active in the anti-war struggle.
"If I had the time and I lived there [British Columbia], I would try to get more involved," he said. "But I thought because I had a platform, I had an opportunity to get this ... [message] out. Because the amount of hours they've spent trying to educate, paying speakers, gather people around to protest this, to try to create change ... they're putting their hearts and souls into this for the betterment of others, not for themselves."
I hope this proves to be the biggest assist Steve Nash has ever dished out.