Obama backs Phoenix Suns' protest of Arizona immigration law

President Barack Obama lent support on Tuesday night for the Phoenix Suns' protest of their home state's new immigration law.

The president said it was "terrific" that the NBA's Suns were socially engaged enough to wage a protest during a home playoff game by wearing the "Los Suns" jerseys they typically only wear for games celebrating Hispanic heritage.

"I think that just because somebody's a sports figure or you've got a sports team doesn't mean that you're not part of the community and you're not part of our democracy," Obama said during a halftime interview on TNT. "I think it's terrific that the Suns, who obviously feel very strongly about their community, recognize that a big part of their community felt threatened by this new law."

Suns players chose to wear the jerseys in a home playoff game earlier this month to register their disagreement with the state's new law, which is meant to crack down on illegal immigration.

The controversial law compels law enforcement authorities to confront individuals whom they suspect of being illegal immigrants, forcing those people to produce documentation on their residency status.

Obama said that the Suns were following in the example of other sporting greats like tennis star Arthur Ashe and NBA legend Bill Russell, who spoke out about the social issues of their time.

"You wouldn’t always agree with them, but that sense that people are engaged in the big issues of the day, I think, is a positive thing," Obama said.

"I don’t think that either players or franchises need to always steer away from controversy," the president added. "I happen to personally think that the Arizona law is a bad idea — I’ve said so publicly — and I see no reason why these guys can’t make the same statement."

Watch the whole interview below: