If Major League Baseball’s 2011 All-Star Game is held as planned in the anti-immigrant “meth lab of democracy” otherwise known as Arizona, players are letting it be known that the show will go on without them. On Monday's media day for this week's 2010 game in Anaheim, several Latino All-Stars were asked for their thoughts about next year’s game taking place in a state being monitored by the justice department for racial profiling.
''If the game is in Arizona, I will totally boycott," said Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Yovani Gallardo. Kansas City reliever Joakim Soria and Detroit Tigers pitcher Jose Valverde seconded that emotion. ''They could stop me and ask to see my papers. I have to stand with my Latin community on this,” said Soria.
The three have now joined San Diego Padres all-star Adrian Gonzalez, and his teammates Yorvit Torrealba, and Heath Bell along with Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen in stating that they would stay away from Arizona next summer.
Other even more prominent players didn’t call for a boycott, but they made their feelings exceedingly clear. Major League home run leader, Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista said, ''Hopefully, there are some changes in the law before [next year]. We have to back up our Latin communities.''
The biggest star in the game, Albert Pujols, came out in direct opposition to his Arizona-law-loving manager Tony LaRussa, saying, "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.''
A spokesperson for the Baseball Players Association also made news by saying they would fully back any player who chose to boycott the 2011 game. [As a side-note, Alex Rodriguez – Major League Baseball’s answer to Lebron James in too many ways to name – was also asked about Arizona’s laws but just said, ''Wrong guy,” and then pointed to other players in the locker room. Rodriguez then proceeded to drown after attempting to make love to his own reflection in a nearby duck pond.]
This flurry of commentary in this most staid of sports threatens to overshadow Tuesday’s Midsummer Classic and spotlight the political and moral impotence of Major League commissioner Bud Selig. Selig refused to comment on the issue today and his one statement all season on the issue managed to be both puzzling and inane. (After much analysis, it was determined that Selig wants the game to stay in Arizona.) Selig's constant crutch of no-comments may be coming to an abrupt end.
The sports media wasn’t asking about immigration out of concern for the 28% of Major Leaguers born outside the United States. They were probing the actual political thoughts of players because of a very real, growing movement of civil rights and grass roots organizations calling on MLB to move the game.
On Monday morning, the organization movethegame.org held a press conference where they showcased more than 100,000 names who had signed their petition calling on Major League Baseball to act. A protest has also been called for Tuesday at 3pm right at Angel Stadium, on all American Gene Autry Way in Anaheim.
As Wade Henderson, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and Janet Murguia is president of the National Council of La Raza wrote in an oped on Alternet, “Unless the league acts, next year our favorite all-stars could enter a hostile environment, and the families, friends and fans of a third of the players could be treated as second-class citizens because of their skin color or the way they speak…. We are not asking Selig to weigh in on immigration policy; we are asking him to take a stand against bigotry and intolerance. Despite being petitioned by numerous members of Congress and civil rights, labor and social justice groups, Selig has not adequately addressed the issue.”
He certainly has not. But if civil rights activists keep up the pressure on the outside and players keep speaking out on the inside, Selig will have no choice but to make perfectly clear where he stands on the most basic civil rights of his own players. If the NFL could move the Super Bowl from Arizona two decades ago because they wouldn’t acknowledge Martin Luther King’s birthday; if the NCAA can keep post-season tournaments out of states that still fly the confederate flag, then Bud Selig can wipe that hang-dog look off his face, straighten his back, and do the right thing. If not for the people, he can do it for Pujols.
[Dave Zirin is the author of the forthcoming “Bad Sports: How Owners are Ruining the Games we Love” (Scribner) Receive his column every week by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Contact him at email@example.com.]