By Dave Zirin
Much has been written about “white culture” warrior Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally on the steps of the Lincoln memorial this Saturday. Occurring on the anniversary and in the location of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech, Beck has stated that he is gathering his forces because "this is a moment, quite honestly, that I think we reclaim the civil rights movement." It’s a provocative, act perpetrated by a man who has more in common with George Lincoln Rockwell than Martin Luther King. He is the public face of Fox News's 50 state southeisrn strategy and the only way his name and Dr. King’s name should be in the same sentence should be, “Dr. King, if he was still with us, would have picketed Glenn Beck.”
Yet Glenn Beck, true to form for the new-age-radical-right playbook is desperate to not have his rally interpreted as openly racist, even asking attendees to “leave the signs at home.” He also has scheduled speakers who could bring a dash of color to the proceedings. Tragically on Saturday, that will come in the face of St. Louis Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols. The plea here is for Pujols to walk away from an event that does open dishonor to the memory of Dr. King.
As a person who believes strongly that athletes shouldn’t just “shut up and play,” and have a responsibility to speak out on political issues, I’ve been asked if it’s hypocritical to ask Pujols not to attend Beck's rally. Hardly. Pujols is more than just the finest Major League hitter of his generation, and the third youngest man to ever hit 400 home runs. He also emerged recently as the most prominent voice in Major League Baseball against Arizona’s anti-immigrant racial profiling law SB 1070. At the 2010 All-Star game, Pujols told reporters, "I'm opposed to it. How are you going to tell me that, me being Hispanic, if you stop me and I don't have my ID, you're going to arrest me? That can't be.” It was all the more dramatic because Pujols made the statement just days after his own manager Tony LaRussa said, "I'm actually a supporter of what Arizona is doing… That's just part of the American way." [La Russa and Pujols will be together at the Beck rally.]
Pujols should walk away from this a rally because Beck has been a rabid supporter of Arizona’s laws saying, “It will be the toughest piece of Immigration enforcement in the country….What Arizona is doing is they are making it illegal to be illegal.” Beck also warned very darkly that as a result of people protesting the law, “we're being pushed into an area where civil war" is possible.
It’s simple really: Albert Pujols can’t allow himself to be window dressing for a man who would threaten violence as a response to his concerns. Pujols absolutely should not just shut up and play. He should publicly disavow Beck’s paranoid, racialized view of America. The struggle in Arizona and around the country for immigrant rights is a real civil rights movement. It’s a movement that Dr. Martin Luther King would have proudly joined and there could be no greater tribute to King’s memory than Pujols telling Beck, in the name of his immigrant brothers and sisters, to take a hike. As Dr. King said, “Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man can't ride you unless your back is bent.” Albert Pujols should tell Glenn Beck to go ride himself.
[If you want to email the Cardinals and express your concern, click here.]