Memo to Bud Selig: Move the Damn Game

A steady thrum is increasing in volume outside Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig's door to move the 2011 All Star Game out of Phoenix. Recent laws passed in Arizona—from banning ethnic studies in the Tucson public schools to mandating that the police demand the papers of “suspicious” immigrants—have mobilized people to take the Boycott Arizona campaign to Selig's door.

 

In addition to written requests to move the game from the Reverend Jesse Jackson and  Congressman Jose Serrano, whose district includes Yankee Stadium, more than 100,000 people have signed a petition asking Selig to make the move.

 

As Favianna Rodriguez of movethegame.org said to me, "Not only are more than a quarter of the League’s players Latino, but so is a large part of the fan base. Now, in Arizona, these players and fans risk being harassed and even arrested on their way to the ballpark just because of how they look or their accent. We will not stand for laws like SB 1070, which treat Latinos like second-class citizens, and neither should Bud Selig.”

 

Selig, after weeks of hemming and hawing, came out with his answer last week. When asked if they would move the game, he fumed, “Apparently all the people around and in minority communities think we’re doing OK. That’s the issue, and that’s the answer. I told the clubs today: ‘Be proud of what we’ve done.’ They are. We should. And that’s our answer. We control our own fate, and we’ve done very well.”

 

It’s not clear what “minority communities” Selig is referring to, but if he believes that statement is going to isolate Major League Baseball from becoming ensnared in the immigration debate, he is being naive.

 

As Move the Game has documented, fifteen players have spoken out against the bill: Jorge Cantu, Augie Ojeda, Michael Young Frank Francisco. Alexei Ramírez, Adrian Gonzalez. César Izturis, Heath Bell. Rod Barajas, Scott Hairston. Joe Saunders. Bobby Abreu, Yorvit Torrealba, José Guillén, and Kyle McClellan.

 

Here’s what Cantu told the Miami Herald: “This hits me in the heart. I do not accept it. It’s a shame. It is sad news for my country, but not only Mexicans. Latin people. It’s just a shame for all those people here looking for a better life. They are looking for a better standard of living, and this knocks down their dreams. It is really upsetting.”

 

Of these players, Gonzalez and White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen have said that they would be boycott the All Star game if played in Phoenix.

 

The tension on the field is exceeded by what’s happening off the field. The Arizona Diamondbacks have become the traveling road show for this legislation. This isn’t because they have the word “Arizona” in their name. It’s because their owner Ken Kendrick is a serious money man for the Republican Party.

 

We’ve now seen protests at every road stop of the D-backs since the law was passed: Denver to Chicago to Houston, to Florida to Atlanta. This coming Saturday, on a national day of action against Arizona’s laws, there stands to be the biggest of these protests in San Francisco, where people will be marching on AT&T Park. Diana Macasa, one of the march organizers, said to me, “We're marching on the Diamondbacks because if Arizona shows us anything, it’s that the attacks—no matter where you live—are escalating, and we want to send a message that this must stop now.”

 

The players on the field and the protesters off know that Major League Baseball, with its utter dependence on both the Latino players and the economic bonanza of the All Star game, is susceptible to pressure.

 

As McClellan said, “The All-Star game, it’s going to generate a lot of revenue. Look at what it did here for St. Louis. It was a huge promotion for this city and this club, and it’s one of those things where it’s something that would definitely leave a mark on them if we were to pull out of there. It would get a point across.”

 

This is what Bud Selig is up against. He is going to have to understand that whatever his final decision, there is no untangling sports and politics here. Players and fans will view his final decision as a political choice.

 

[Dave Zirin is the author of “A People’s History of Sports in the United States.” He writes a monthly column for The Progressive. This is from the upcoming July issue of The Progressive.]

11 Reader Comments | Add a comment

love it

I love it real Democracy at work. I like that both sides of the issue are in the streets passionately advocating for their position.

SB1070

If twenty seven percent of the league is made up of Latin players, then I agree with the boycott. Black players should take a stand too. Dave, in one of your books, it was Roberto Clemente who supported several causes of the Black Panther Party.

@Cheyney30

Why does the percentage of Latin players matter to the boycott? It's an obscene law regardless of the demographics of the MLB.

Latino Response to Arizona's anti-Immigrant Law

It is great to hear how more and more Latino Baseball players are speaking out. However, as a Mexican-American from Southern California, it is very disturbing that Angel owner (and Arizona native) Arte Moreno has not stepped up to the plate on this issue. In the past he has contributed to Republican causes and was a big supporter for George W. Bush. Could it be that he has something to hide? I used to admire Moreno for his front office leadership of the Angels and in fact I still think he is a far better owner than what my favorite team, the Dodgers have (yes! McCourt is an idiot- always was and always will be!). Please continue to inform us about Moreno and expose him the first chance you get!

More to speak out

I applaud the players who have voiced there concerns over SB1070. Unfortunately, if 15 players have already spoke out, that leaves (I believe) over 1200 players that have not. Here's hoping many of those players stand up for themselves, their teamates, and everyone else by speaking out against the bill.

I liked the article. Will have to get more info about this Sunday, didn't know.

Serious

If the Latino players were serious they would say we absolutely refused to play in ARIZONA. Then I would respect what they had to say about the matter. Give up some game checks if you care that much.

....

Now we know why athletes get paid so much. To keep them out of politics. If athletes and entertainers weren't paid so much I'm convinced we'd never have another Republican president, because they would be right in the forefront of politics and their message would be loud. But you give them enough cheddar, and they stay mum like they did throughout the Bush years, and, in too many cases, right now when our country is turning the clock backward on civil rights.

Protesting is easy when everyone agrees...

Why would AZ pass this law right before May Day? And then have the all star game in Phoenix? And have the Suns in the finals? Oops...

Watch out for whales, even in the desert...

Selig

I think we, as fans, would feel a little bit better (and probably somewhat surprised) if we at all thought that Selig gave a crap about what we think.

Boycott All Star Game!

Dave Zirin is right. 15 out of 1200 Latino players speaking out is, in my opinion, ridiculous. Watch who shows up at the Game. Read the article, "What's Wrong With Arizona" in the current edition of Harper's. It really nails it.

get the All Star game out of Arizona!

if the game is held in Arizona, I pledge to boycott all Sponsors for t Months

11 Reader Comments | Add a comment

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Dave Zirin is the author of the book: "Welcome to the Terrordome: The Pain, Politics and Promise of Sports" (Haymarket). You can receive his column Edge of Sports, every week by going to dave@edgeofsports.com.
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