On January 27th, 2017, Donald Trump issued an executive order titled “PROTECTING THE NATION FROM FOREIGN TERRORIST ENTRY INTO THE UNITED STATES”, which outlined a plan to temporarily halt immigration from seven Muslim majority countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
The order was received with immediate criticism, as thousands around the country protested the ethnocentric and xenophobic undertones of the order. Although a federal judge halted the enforcement of the order, and the Ninth Circuit denied the Government’s request to lift the stay, Trump has declared that he will issue a modified version of this order in the coming weeks.
The ban will have an impact on nearly every sector of American life, including sports. Given the prominent foreign presence in both the NBA and MLB, this order and its underlying policy goal of making immigration more difficult could have a severe impact on sports leagues’ recruiting and retaining of foreign talent.
The NBA immediately contacted the State Department requesting clarification of the initial order, fearing that this ban would affect two Sudanese NBA players: Luol Deng of the Los Angeles Lakers and Thon Maker of the Milwaukee Bucks. To read this order strictly would mean that Maker and Deng, who both possess Sudanese citizenship, would be barred from re-entry into the United States if they were to leave the country during the 90 day ban. While it seems that this will not affect either player this year, as both will not be playing in Toronto for the rest of the season, these types of problems will only grow if the ban becomes permanent and expands to include other countries. Additionally, the NBA has always prided itself on being a “global game”, and has recently proposed plans to establish training grounds and recruiting centers in both India and Africa. With this ban in place, the NBA’s goals of attracting International talent and expanding their brand will be stifled, as youth interested in the game will simply be disallowed from entering the country.
While South and Central American countries are not part of this executive order, Trump has indicated that he will attempt to strengthen the border with the construction of a wall and by strongly enforcing immigration policies. For the MLB, where nearly 30% of the players on 2016 Opening Day rosters were foreign born, Trump’s immigration policies could have a monumental impact on the game of baseball. This administration’s policy regarding immigration south of the border is not yet clear, but if it is similar to the executive order, then it will make it nearly impossible for MLB teams to recruit new talent or retain players fearing deportation.
Despite being temporarily halted by the Ninth Circuit, this administration will continue to push for stronger immigration policies that impact sports.