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Mayors' basketball bet draws controversy

L.A. Mayor Villaraigosa and Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon put the controversy over immigration policy in their playoffs bet.

May 18, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is the latest person to link the Lakers-Phoenix playoff series to Arizona's new anti-illegal immigrant law.It's common for mayors to make bets about the outcome of games. But Villaraigosa and Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon put the controversy over immigration policy in their bet. Villaraigosa offers Arizona two Republican candidates for California governor in exchange for one controversial Arizona sheriff.

Villaraigosa made the bet Monday on the outcome of the NBA Western Conference Finals with the Phoenix Suns. On the other end of the phone was Phoenix's Democratic Mayor Phil Gordon.

"He's agreed that if the Suns win, they'll send us Sheriff Arpaio, and if the Suns win we'll send them Steve Poizner and Meg Whitman," said Villraigosa.

The bet is very political. Villaraigosa and Gordon started talking about it last Thursday when they were both in Washington, D.C.

In a letter, Democratic Mayor Villaraigosa said: "Los Angeles is internationally recognized for its multicultural history, and Phoenix is internationally recognized for its two-time most valuable player, Steve Nash, who happens to hail from Canada."

Villaraigosa went on to say, "Since your new immigration policy is set to kick in soon, we look forward to welcoming Steve to our team the next time he forgets to carry his passport with him."

The Arizona law prompted some support from Lakers Coach Phil Jackson and a protest by Lakers fans.

Phoenix police don't support the law requiring police to determine a person's immigration status.

The Suns even changed their jerseys to protest the law.

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is outspoken in his support of the new Arizona immigration law.

In his letter, Villaraigosa says: "Perhaps a stint in Los Angeles would teach [Arpaio] that you cannot deduce immigration status simply by looking at a person."

Villaraigosa says the Republican gubernatorial candidates are currently battling for supremacy on the issue of illegal immigration.

California Insurance Commissioner and Republican candidate for governor Steve Poizner wants to see the Lakers win. But Poizner is critical of the mayor's bet.

"The fact is I think the mayor should focus on the fact that Los Angeles is close to bankruptcy, and one of the reason why Los Angeles and all of California is having troubles right now is because we don't control our border," said Poizner.

Poizner's Republican opponent is former EBay CEO Meg Whitman.

A spokeswoman for Whitman says, "The bet is a dumb political stunt. Go Lakers!"