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NBA asks State Department how Donald Trump’s travel ban affects its players

The president’s ban on travel for citizens of certain countries has the NBA concerned about the impact on its players

Federal Judge Hears Challenge Against Muslim Immigration Ban Photo by Yana Paskova/Getty Images

The National Basketball Association has contacted the U.S. State Department for clarification about how President Donald Trump’s executive order on a travel ban could impact the league’s players.

"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,” NBA spokesperson Mike Bass said. “The NBA is a global league and we are proud to attract the very best players from around the world."

While the NBA is full of Muslim athletes, the current mandate from the White House could affect two players. Los Angeles Lakers forward Luol Deng and Milwaukee Bucks rookie Thon Maker are both from South Sudan, which won its independence in 2011. While Sudan is a country listed on the executive order, South Sudan is not. Complications for South Sudanese citizens have not been documented.

Deng has lived in the United States for almost 20 years and has British citizenship. His family fled to Egypt when he was young to escape the Sudanese civil war. Deng settled in New Jersey as a teenager. Maker and his family fled Sudan when he was five and moved to Australia, where he has citizenship. Eventually, they settled in the United States where he played high school ball in Louisiana before moving to Canada.

There hasn’t been any word from the NBA about how this executive order could potentially affect the league’s Basketball without Borders camp. The camp is slated to be held during All-Star Weekend in New Orleans next month. Rosters haven’t been released, though last year’s camp included players from 25 different countries, some hailing from banned nations.

Alex Lasry, vice president of the Milwaukee Bucks, expressed concern for Maker Saturday night.

“I appreciate all the fans concerns and prayers for Thon. 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,” Lasry said via his personal Twitter account. “He's a symbol of what makes America great and all immigrants believe about America. But what's going on in U.S. right now isn't about Thon. It's about all the other incredible immigrants and refugees who will make U.S. a better place that can't come into our country. This is not who we are as a country and doesn't live up to our ideals.”

Lasry’s family history connects him to the plight of those affected by the travel ban. Lasry’s father, Marc, emigrated from Marrakesh, Morocco, when he was seven. He became a billionaire hedge fund manager and the Bucks owner after growing up in Connecticut.

Lasry said that Trump’s rhetoric about immigrants and refugees isn’t what he sees. He sees the vision that led his father and family to come to America for better lives.

“We must continue to share the stories of incredible immigrants and refugees who make America GREAT,” he said. “Proud that Thon and my dad will be shining examples every day.”

The executive order restricts people from emigrating or traveling from Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, and Libya from entering the United States for at least 90 days. The order also states that the Secretary of State or the Secretary of Homeland Security, at any point, can give the president names of any additional countries recommended for a similar block.

The order calls for a review into suspending the Visa Interview Waiver Program, allowing travelers from 38 countries to renew travel authorization without a person-to-person interview. Further, it bans all refugee admissions for 120 days and bans Syrian refugees indefinitely.

Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi described the order as dishonoring American values and “do not address the threat of terrorism.

“This Administration has mistaken cruelty for strength and prejudice for strategy,” she said. “Americans of all faiths must confront and reject any attempt to target for exclusion or discrimination anyone on the basis of their religion.”