Last week, the Major League Baseball Players Association issued a statement condemning the new anti-immigrant law in Arizona, urging its repeal or prompt modification. After initially remaining silent, many Latino baseball players and coaches are beginning to speak out.
To show support for the protest against Arizona’s legislation, Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said he would boycott the All-Star Game that is scheduled to take place next year in Phoenix. Now, that boycott effort has gained an influential endorsement: San Diego Padres first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. A dual citizen of Mexico and the U.S., Gonzalez is one of the game’s best hitters. He has been on the National League’s All-Star team for the past two seasons.
Gonzalez told the San Diego Union-Tribune that the Arizona law is “immoral” and a violation of human rights. “In a way, it goes against what this country was built on. This is discrimination. Are they going to pass out a picture saying ‘You should look like this and you’re fine, but if you don’t, do people have the right to question you?’ That’s profiling.” He went further in an interview with MLB Fanhouse, stating that he would go so far as to refuse playing in the All-Star Game next year if the law is in effect:
He told FanHouse that he will not attend next year’s All-Star Game in Phoenix if the law is in effect, and that he’d like for major league baseball to boycott spring training in Arizona. Gov. Jan Brewer signed the bill into law on April 23.
“I’ll support the Players Association 100 percent,” said Gonzalez, who grew up in both Tijuana and a suburb south of San Diego. “If they leave it up to the players and the law is still there, I’ll probably not play in the All-Star Game. Because it’s a discriminating law.
“I know it can’t be done, but they should take spring training out of (Arizona) if it’s possible.”
All around the league, players are beginning to voice their concerns about the Arizona law. New York Mets catcher Rod Barajas said, “If a blond-haired, blue-eyed Canadian gets pulled over, do you think they are going to ask for their papers? No.” “I don’t know the details, but if I leave the park after a game and I get stopped, am I supposed to have papers with me?” Arizona Diamondbacks infielder Augie Ojeda wondered. “I don’t think that’s fair.”
Calling the Arizona law “racist stuff,” San Diego Padres catcher Yorvit Torrealba said he he’s not anxious to play in Arizona: “Why do I want to go play in a place where every time I go to a restaurant and they don’t understand what I’m trying to order, they’re going to ask me for ID first? That’s bull.” Padres’ closer Heath Bell said Arizona’s law is “mind-boggling.” Padres’ outfielder Scott Hairston added, “It just wasn’t necessary to pass a bill like that.” One player noted that fan reaction to the law will be an important factor:
“I’m not a political guy and I really don’t understand it, but I don’t blame people for protesting if it affects their lives,” third baseman Mark Reynolds said. “If no fans show up at one of our games, I’d better start paying attention.”
The Nation’s Dave Zirin writes, “There are rare historical moments when protest can shape athletes and athletes can in turn shape the confidence, size, and scope of protest. This could very well be one of those moments.” It has been done before in Arizona. In 1990, Arizona voters’ rejection of an MLK holiday set off a cascade of cancellations of conventions and other events. “The NFL pulled the 1993 Super Bowl from the Phoenix suburb of Tempe. The NBA told the Phoenix Suns not to bother putting in a bid for the All-Star game.”