DALLAS -- Steve Nash, the Mavericks' All-Star guard and perhaps the NBA's most outspoken anti-war lobbyist, said Thursday that he has no plans to modify his stance.
Nash reiterated his position after drawing criticism from a Texas statesman not known for critiquing his peers: Spurs center David Robinson.
"From the start, I spoke out just because I don't want to see the loss of life," Nash said. "People are mistaking anti-war as being unpatriotic. This has nothing to do with the fact that I'm from Canada. This is a much bigger issue. But now that we're in battle, I hope for as many lives to be spared as possible, (and) as little violence as possible before a resolution."
After Thursday's loss to the Spurs, Nash added: "I never said, 'Go out and believe what I believe.' (The message) was, 'Go out and decide for yourself.' But I am 100 percent behind the soldiers protecting our freedom. Who wouldn't be?"
Nash emerged as a prominent anti-war spokesman during All-Star Weekend in Atlanta, where he wore a T-shirt reading: "No War. Shoot for Peace." The shirt was designed by a former high school classmate in British Columbia, and Nash insists that the reaction has been "unbelievably positive compared to negative."
"People come up to me all the time and say, 'Thank you,' " Nash said, adding that his original intent was merely to spark debate, which the shirt and the stance have certainly accomplished.
Of course, the anti-war platform also drew a strong rebuke Thursday from Robinson, the former Naval officer. Nash was lumped into the discussion by a reporter asking Robinson to react to statements from Mavericks guard Nick Van Exel, who said on his weekly radio show in Dallas that there's a sentiment among some players in the Mavs' locker room that President Bush's war initiative gives Americans "a bad name."
"I get a little bit upset," Robinson said. "The time for debate is really beforehand. Obviously history will speak on whether this was the right thing or the wrong thing, but right now (the soldiers) are out there. Support 'em. There's plenty of time for commentary later."
"If it's an embarrassment to them," Robinson added, "maybe they should be in a different country, because this is America and we're supposed to proud of the guys we elected and put in office."
It must be said, however, that neither Nash nor Van Exel has publicly used the word "embarrassment." That was the word presented to Robinson by the reporter asking the question.
Van Exel tried to clarify his position before Thursday's game by saying: "I don't want it to be like, 'He hates Bush.' I'm definitely not like that. I have my opinions but in no way are they negative toward George Bush or my country." In his radio interview Wednesday, before the Bush comment, Van Exel did say: "Nobody is dissing America. We all love America. Even the Germans and the Canadians and the Frenchmen."
Playing in the president's home state, and some coming from countries whose governments have voiced opposition to the U.S. war effort, Mavericks players who speak out against it place themselves at greater risk for criticism.
Dallas owner Mark Cuban, meanwhile, sported his own T-shirt Thursday, in red instead of Mavericks blue and bearing the flag-themed message: "United We Stand."
"I'm not embarrassed by America," Nash said. "I'm embarrassed by humanity. More than embarrassed, I think it's really unfortunate in the year 2003 that we're still using violence as a means of conflict resolution. That's what I'm speaking out against."
Said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, an Air Force Academy alumnus: "My reaction to that is that it's further proof how great our country is, because you can't have opinions of any sort in some places. No matter how unpopular someone's opinion might be, he or she is allowed to have it in this country, and that's what makes it great."