Civil Liberties  
comments_image Comments

Forces Align Against Arizona: 4 Major Cities Threaten Boycotts, Baseball Flexes Its Muscles, Citizens in Uproar

As calls continue to boycott Arizona over its racist immigration law, many are focusing on Major League Baseball, where nearly a third of the players are Latino.

Editor's note: Sign the petition -- Ask the Department of Justice to block Arizona's racist law, the greatest threat to civil rights in America in a generation.

Immediately after Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed the racist new anti-immigration law, calls for a boycott of her state arose, from La Opinión, the nation's largest Spanish-language newspaper, to Democratic Representative Raúl Grijalva, who called for targeted economic sanctions of his own state, saying that "good" and "decent" organizations "should refrain from bringing their business" to Arizona. Colombian pop star Shakira traveled to Phoenix last week, appearing on CNN to condemn the law; meanwhile local politicians from at least four major cities are weighing whether or not to issue resolutions to stop doing business with Arizona.

With calls to boycott Arizona continuing to grow over the weekend, and May Day protesters marching in cities across the country, perhaps one of the most visible -- and potentially influential -- is the campaign to move Major League Baseball's 2011 All-Star Game out of the state. With the percentage of Latinos who play professional baseball comparable to the percentage of Latino U.S. citizens who live in Arizona, players and politicians are speaking out.

"Major League Baseball needs to revisit the issue of whether the All-Star Game, one of America's greatest televised exports to Latin America, should be played in a state that doesn't show any respect to Latinos," Democratic Rep. Jose Serrano, who represents the Bronx, home of the New York Yankees, told the NY Daily News last week. The 2011 All-Star Game is currently scheduled to take place in Phoenix.

Adrian Gonzalez, first baseman for the San Diego Padres, and a two-time All-Star player, has vowed to skip the All-Star Game if the law stands. "If they leave it up to the players and the law is still there, I'll probably not play in the All-Star Game," he said in an interview this weekend. "Because it's a discriminating law."

Last week, Major League Baseball Players Association executive director Michael Weiner issued a statement in opposition of Arizona's new law, warning that it "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."

"If the current law goes into effect," he warned, "the MLBPA will consider additional steps necessary to protect the rights and interests of our members."

Many have drawn parallels to the National Football League's boycott of Arizona following its opposition to Martin Luther King Day. Under pressure from its own players, the NFL was forced to move the 1993 Super Bowl from Phoenix to Los Angeles. "I urge the Major Leaguers playing today to follow the lead of their NFL counterparts in taking a strong stand against racism," Rep. Serrano said.

Efforts to boycott Arizona go beyond the sports realm. In cities across the country, local politicians are weighing resolutions to impose sanctions on Arizona. In Los Angeles, calls from city council members to boycott Arizona were joined by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa last week. "What we want to do is make sure we understand and review every monetary transaction, any kind of funding that comes from Los Angeles [to Arizona], evaluate it, refrain from conducting business with them and make them aware that their actions have real consequences from a monetary view," Councilman Ed Reyes said.

Reyes, along with Councilwoman Janice Hahn, have introduced legislation that calls for L.A. to "refrain from conducting business with the state of Arizona including participating in any conventions or other business that requires city resources, unless SB 1070 [Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act] is repealed."

In Milwaukee, WI, where thousands took part in May Day protests this weekend, Alderman Jim Witowiak reportedly plans to announce legislation to boycott Arizona-based companies. "If the resolution passes, city workers would also not be allowed to go to Arizona for any meetings or conferences," reports a local ABC affiliate.