In a new act of racial and religious exclusion, President Donald J. Trump signed one of his first executive orders, banning non-American citizens of seven countries from entering the United States for 90 days. The countries barred (Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, Yemen and Iraq) are all majority-Muslin nations.
Although most Americans may not know someone affected directly by Trump’s order, the ban has left several notable immigrant professional athletes fearing if they can compete.
One of the impacted athletes is Thon Maker, a center for the Milwaukee Bucks of the NBA. Maker was born in Wau, Sudan and is a South Sudan citizen who travels under an Australian passport. Following the Buck’s Jan. 28 game against the Toronto Raptors in Toronto, Canada, team officials held concerns that Maker might be barred from re-entry into the U.S.
Fortunately, Maker was able to make it back to state-side safety. Since that close call, however, the NBA has reached out to the State Department to clarify the status of two of the league’s players: Makers and Luol Deng of the Los Angeles Lakers. Both Maker and Deng were born in Sudan and are non-US citizens, but hold dual-citizenship in a country not included on the ban list, creating a gray area for their status in international league travel.
“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,” said NBA spokesman Mike Bass. “The NBA is a global league and we are proud to attract the very best players from around the world.”
Bucks senior vice president Alexander Lasry sent out statements over Twitter in support of his player. “I appreciate all the fans’ concerns and prayers for Thon,” Lasry wrote. “And today, a Sudanese refugee who fled oppression and is an incredible young man will make his second NBA start. I’m incredibly excited and proud of him. He’s a symbol of what makes America great and all immigrants believe about America.”
The impacts of the ban go beyond just Maker and Deng. With international athletes being unable to enter the U.S., bids to hold the 2024 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, and the 2026 World Cup in the US, might soon be sweltered by international governing committees.
In an act of retaliation, Iran has banned US citizens from entering the country, preventing two American-born basketball players from playing professionally in Iran.
Four-time gold medalist British and Somalian distance runner Sir Mo Farrah is another notable athlete who can be impacted. Farrah now lives in the United States, but is currently training outside the country.
“I am a British citizen who has lived in America for the past six years–working hard, contributing to society, paying my taxes and bringing up our four children in the place they now call home,” said Farrah. “Now, me and many others like me are being told that we may not be welcome. It’s deeply troubling that I will have to tell my children that Daddy might not be able to come home–to explain why the President has introduced a policy that comes from a place of ignorance and prejudice.”
Nazr Mohammad, a former NBA player who identifies as Muslim, wrote on Twitter, “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.”
“Freedom and liberty packing up their things…” tweeted former two-time NBA MVP Steve Nash. America nervously waits to see what will become of their beloved role model athletes.