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Lakers' Luol Deng speaks out, says he's 'a proud refugee'

It’s become basically impossible to stick to sports, and that’s a good thing.

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Miami Heat Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Luol Deng is an NBA veteran of a dozen years. Luol Deng is one of the league’s most respected individuals. Luol Deng is an American citizen. Luol Deng is a proud refugee.

Luol Deng should not have to worry about issues with traveling, but this is the America we woke up in over the weekend. You want him to stick to sports? Well, he would if he could, but potential travel issues are pretty damn impossible to ignore for someone with his resumé, so here we are.

Here are his own words on the topic.

Look, it’s somewhat understandable that fans would want to see sports as just a release, a form of escape from the harsh realities of life. But how can those fans witness what people have been put through and ask an athlete to be quiet on this issue, especially when it affects that athlete personally in the way this does?

Deng should not have to worry about what he’s had to worry about lately. The NBA shouldn’t have to contact the Federal Government to see if it’s okay that players travel freely simply because our President and his followers are waging a war against an entire religion. Yet here we are, and we can no longer stick to sports so long as it continues.

This isn’t to say it should dominate sports coverage. No, we still have a job to do. But when the time comes to stand against something so blatantly offensive as this new policy, more people need to follow in Deng’s footsteps.

Human decency should not be a political statement.

Deng’s statement takes courage — exponentially more than it took for me to write this. That he took all he has at stake into consideration and still released this statement to stand up for others in his situation or worse says something about how passionately those who oppose this policy are willing to fight for the country they believe America can be.

We can do better. It has to. And part of it starts with those who have a platform speaking out for what is right. Deng did so, and we can only hope more follow suit. The time to stick to sports has passed.

UPDATE: After the game, Deng spoke further about his statements, and ESPN’s Baxter Holmes got the quote. Here’s what he had to say.

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