The NBA season has been a roller coaster ride of emotion for both sides. The San Antonio Spurs and the Miami Heat have exchanged seemingly heavy weight blows through their finals appearance. It’s gone back and forth to the point that no team has won consecutive games. None of the fans however where ready for a four foot star to steal the show during game 3. That’s when 11 year old Sebastian De La Cruz stepped to the microphone to sing his country’s National Anthem and a media firestorm ensued.
Some called it disrespectful; others felt that San Antonio could have found a better representation for the spotlight. Whatever the census, it was evident that little De La Cruz had the talent and stage presence to do it justice. San Antonio Spurs’ public relations department stuck to their guns in defense of him. According to sources, their office was flooded with racist remarks like, “Who let this little Mexican into the country?” and “When did illegal aliens get permission to sing our songs?”
One of the things I have been most proud of with my country is our character to defend the powerless and lift up those who are down. We are founded on such a rich history of diversity that it is somewhat discouraging to see the racism that was spewed. As an African American woman, I live with the paradox of cautious optimism when considering where we are headed.
Many who hid behind their Twitter handles and Facebook posts seemed to miss the awesome display of cultural diversity displayed. After all, the NBA boasts to be a melting pot with players from countries around the globe. Argentina, Germany, Spain and France are just a few of the places who have athletes competing in the league.
Amidst the controversy, Sebastian was content with taking the high road. When asked about all the attention he is getting, De La Cruz told CNN, “For those that said something bad about me, I understand it is your opinion. I’m proud to be American and to live in a free country.” This young man is Mexican-American born right there in San Antonio. His culture is filled with pride. Consider Manifest Destiny, the U.S. – Mexican War and the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848. That’s a culture of resilience. Not to mention enduring more than 100 years of discrimination from those who looked down on his ‘kind’. I believe he was born with toughness woven into his DNA.
I celebrate Sebastian De La Cruz for standing in the spotlight proudly in his Mariachi suit to do an encore for Game 4. Along with San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro the world got a chance to witness his talents again. In an even stronger performance this time around, many welled up with tears. It left the thought that this is truly what our country is all about.
The question is, where do we go from here? It is during these times we realize just what work lies ahead for us as a country. This is an issue bigger than Mexican-Americans, Sebastian De La Cruz and even basketball. Race relations took center stage and many Americans rose to the challenge. We are different, that’s an understatement. What we must work towards is celebrating one another instead of isolating one another.
By Cherese Jackson
Sebastien De La Cruz Sings National Anthem @ Game 4 of NBA Finals