One of the major catalysts for getting then-Arizona Governor Evan Mecham to recognize the Martin Luther King holiday back in the 1980s was the NFL moving the Super Bowl site away from Phoenix. Like it or not, sports is big business and bestows billions in economic activity on cities. So of all the boycotts and lawsuits and potential initiatives and splits among nationally recognized Republicans in reaction to the dranconian immigration law in Arizona, perhaps nothing will lead to as much action as this strong statement by the head of the Major League Baseball Players Association:
“The recent passage by Arizona of a new immigration law could have a negative impact on hundreds of Major League players who are citizens of countries other than the United States. These international players are very much a part of our national pastime and are important members of our Association. Their contributions to our sport have been invaluable, and their exploits have been witnessed, enjoyed and applauded by millions of Americans. All of them, as well as the Clubs for whom they play, have gone to great lengths to ensure full compliance with federal immigration law.
“The impact of the bill signed into law in Arizona last Friday is not limited to the players on one team. The international players on the Diamondbacks work and, with their families, reside in Arizona from April through September or October. In addition, during the season, hundreds of international players on opposing Major League teams travel to Arizona to play the Diamondbacks. And, the spring training homes of half of the 30 Major League teams are now in Arizona. All of these players, as well as their families, could be adversely affected, even though their presence in the United States is legal. Each of them must be ready to prove, at any time, his identity and the legality of his being in Arizona to any state or local official with suspicion of his immigration status. This law also may affect players who are U.S. citizens but are suspected by law enforcement of being of foreign descent.
“The Major League Baseball Players Association opposes this law as written. We hope that the law is repealed or modified promptly. If the current law goes into effect, the MLBPA will consider additional steps necessary to protect the rights and interests of our members.
Yes, it’s a union statement, and it fits with the general attitude of most unions, particularly wants with large percentages of Hispanic members, about this law. But it fits a pattern. The Arizona Diamondbacks, the baseball club owned by the right-wing Colangelo brothers, are starting to see protests at their road games. The 2011 All-Star Game, scheduled for the Diamondbacks’ park in Phoenix, is in jeopardy – Congressman Jose Serrano has already called for moving it. Organizers are working to continue to pressure the Diamondbacks, as well as to stop 15 ballclubs from holding their spring training next year in Arizona.
This isn’t going to end, and the D-backs’ attempts to defuse the issue certainly won’t put a stop to it. You get the sense that a sleeping giant has been awakened.