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|Saturday, July 01, 2006|
It’s not about the ball
Entrepreneur Anthony Veliz ignites a pro basketball stampede in Salem.
By Oakley Brooks
In March, two weeks before a cast of thousands marched to the Capitol steps in Salem to protest a pending immigration bill, Anthony Veliz watched more than 1,000 people file into the Salem Armory to see his minor league Stampede basketball team play its first regular season game. Veliz once focused his energies on Latino empowerment, but this spring he sidelined ethnic politics for a franchise in the International Basketball League.
And so did his fans and sponsors. On one side of the Armory on that night, Harold Wood, owner of Harold’s Quality Auto Repair, watched the action intently from the suite for which he’d paid $2,500 as the game’s title sponsor. Wood describes his view on illegal immigrants succinctly: “What part of illegal don’t you understand?” As an avid basketball fan, however, he got hooked on Veliz’s free-shooting, two-handed-jamming group of ballers with the rest of the crowd at that first game. There was a sizable group of Veliz’s extended family and friends from Woodburn. Russian speakers from that town as well. And, of course, local Anglos.
“I think this city was looking for a team to rally around.”
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