Why I'm Boycotting the Arizona All-Star Game

Over the last year, civil rights organizations, politicians, sportswriters and baseball players have asked Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig to move Tuesday's 2011 All-Star Game out of Arizona. He chose not to listen and now I choose not to watch. If I lived within a day's travel of Arizona, I'd be choosing to protest at the stadium gates. Ever since Arizona passed its darkly punitive racial profiling law SB 1070, thousands of people have pleaded with Selig to do the right thing and move the game. Baseball is 27.7% Latino. It's a sport dependent on Latin American talent from the baseball academies of the Dominican Republic to today's biggest stars, Albert Pujols and Adrian Gonzalez. Even more, Major League Baseball has prided itself – and marketed itself - on historically being more than just a game. Bud Selig, in particular, is a man, who publicly venerates the game's civil rights tradition. Jackie Robinson's number is retired and visible in every park and the great Roberto Clemente in death has become a true baseball saint. But Selig's inaction makes his tributes to the past look as hollow as Sammy Sosa's old bat.
 
Selig clearly loves the symbolism of civil rights more than the sacrifice. The presence of the game will mean a financial windfall for the state as well as for Arizona Diamondback owner Ken Kendrick. Kendrick is a first-tier right wing money bundler who has let the state politicians behind SB 1070 use his owner’s box for fundraisers. The game will also mean a national spotlight for the vile Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Arizona’s Maricopa County, our 21st century Bull Conner. Arpaio has been threatening to bring down his pink-clad chain gang to clean up outside the stadium.
 
Selig is not the only one backing down from the moment.  The Major League Players Association issued a very strong statement last year against SB 1070 and hinted that a boycott might be in the cards, saying they would “consider additional measures to protect the interests of our members.” Earlier this week, after months of silence, Executive Director Michael Weiner, said “SB 1070 is not in effect and key portions of the law have been judged unlawful by the federal courts.  Under all the circumstances, we have not asked players to refrain from participating in any All-Star activities.” To say SB 1070 “is not in effect” is sophistry. Only a section of SB 1070 has been judged unlawful: the extension of police powers to demand papers without cause. Other aspects are now on the books including stiffer penalties for “illegals” and giving citizens the right to sue any city that sets up safe havens for immigrants. In addition, State Governor Jan Brewer is currently appealing the pruning of SB 1070 directly to the US Supreme Court. Also, the law has spawned copycat legislation is states around the country. My own discussions with Arizona activists tells me that racial profiling has been rampant since the law passed, with Latinos, legal and illegal, in fear to call the police or the fire department, or even attend church. Even if you agree with the Michael Weiner, as he writes, that immigration matters “will not be resolved at Chase Field, nor on any baseball diamond” the MLBPA is being remarkably cavalier about its responsibility to “protect its members.”
 
As for the players, a massive number are bowing out of this year’s game. Is this because of SB 1070? We don’t know, but either way a weakened product will be on display Tuesday night. If the spotlight shifts to anyone on the field, it will be centered on Boston’s All-Star first baseman Adrian Gonzalez who changed his position a year ago that he wouldn’t play if the game were in Arizona. There is a movement to have players like Gonzalez, sympathetic to the cause, to wear a ribbon or make some kind of statement. We will see if Adrian Gonzalez takes advantage of the spotlight.
 
But in the end, responsibility for this debacle rests with Selig. NFL owners, who no one would confuse with the NAACP, threatened to pull the 1993 Super Bowl out of Arizona if the state continued to refuse to recognize Martin Luther King’s birthday as a national holiday. The Now 20 years later, baseball’s commissioner does nothing. Yes, Bud Selig would undoubtedly have received an avalanche of criticism it he had moved the game. That’s what it means to actually sacrifice something for the sake of the civil rights he claims to hold so dear. Instead, his legacy will bear another blot, joining the steroid boom, the cancellation of the 1994 World Series, and the gouging of state economies with tax-payer funded stadiums. Now Bud Selig can always be remembered as the Seinfeld of sports commissioners: the man who did nothing; the man who, with the game on the line, kept his bat on his shoulder and took a called third strike.

 

[Dave Zirin is the author of “Bad Sports: How Owners are Ruining the Games we Love” (Scribner) and just made the new documentary “Not Just a Game.” Receive his column every week by emailing dave@edgeofsports.com. Contact him at edgeofsports@gmail.com.]

11 Reader Comments | Add a comment

Thank you

Thank you for calling the MLB and its players' association on its cowardly stance. Keep up the good reporting.

Agreed!

True, we should hold the athletes just as responsible as the commissioner. That's who fans are paying to see so they obviously have the most power. And it shouldn't jus be Latino players, it should be ALL players who are immigrants that should be just as mad at this blatant act of white supremecy. Funniest thing about all of this is the fact that white folks are immigrants themselves! Last time I checked their were people here when that fag*et named Columbus got here. So, unless you're Native American or the ancestor of an African who was dragged here to be a slave, you're just as much an invader as the Latino's they're trying to get rid of! A coward dies a thousand deaths, a soldier dies but once!

History Will Have Arpaio in a Pink Jump Suit

We've seen Joe Arpaio in recent history. His name was Darryl Gates. And I imagine karma will catch up with Sheriff Joe in the same fashion.

And let's not forget. . .

. . .Broward County (FL)) Sheriff Nick Novarro. Also a racist and shamelesst self promoter as well. The de facto creator of Cops on Fox. The voters of Broward finally realized how corrupt he was, got tired of his act, and finally voted him out of office. It's just a matter of time with Sheriff Joe.

Another great column Dave--thanks so much!

Two corrections

For misspellings. It should be Nick Navarro,, shameless self promoter. And according to his bio on Wikipedia, now runs a private security service company.

I think I need a new editor. *lol*

does not compute

The event has been sold out for ages, this must be some new definition of "boycott" where people who don't have tickets anyways and couldn't get them even if they wanted to decide not to attend and think that somehow is going to hurt the event in question.

Boycott threat empty

When I heard that the MLB was caving in to political correctness and might move the All Star game, I fired off a letter to the MLB public relations. I was not planning to attend the All Star but I do see between 10-15 Dodger games a year and have for over thirty years. I had to tell them that my patronage of those games was over. My sons and I would find other games to attend. I'm sure I was not the only one that sent similar letters. People like me are the ones that are the real meat and potatoes of the MLB.

Our boycott probably was seen in the attendance and sent more of a message than a bunch of BS boycotters of a game they were not going to go to anyway.

Adrian Gonzalez

Hey fool, Adrian Gonzalez was in Monday nights Home Run Derby! So much for shining the spotlight. Get over yourself, you have no idea what this situation is all about.

well

According to most news reports that even mentioned the protesters, there were about 50 of them handing out literature and white ribbons. Fans mostly ignored them. Not one white ribbon to be found inside the stadium. This angered one of the protesters that had a megaphone who proceeded to "tell off" the fans and call them racists. I knew this was going to happen as its happened at every protest so far .. people TUNE OUT when you get angry and in their face and start calling them racists for simply wanting to get to their seats and watch a baseball game without having a deep discussion about politics and race and immigration.

I am glad the all-star game is over, its time to move on & its past time for Zirin to move on.

Uncle Tom Allstars

Surprising to see how many players even wore the bulky red white and blue twisted necklaces, that totally looked like ropes around their necks!

Delusions

One must really be delusional if they expect any millionaire to risk their necks for the sake of the commoners!

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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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