October 24, 2014

Senate Bill 1070 and Baseball’s Role in the Coming Storm

May 3, 2010 by · 7 Comments 

There’s a storm brewing in the southwest.  It doesn’t matter how strong the retractable roof that intermittently hangs over Chase Field might be, this tempest will flood baseball in Arizona.  This inclement weather threatens to do more than delay a first pitch or wash out a baseball game.  Instead, we’re talking about a new definition and direction in immigration control in American society.

And just as always, baseball stands just outside the epicenter, trying to determine in which direction to leap.  On April 20, 2010, the Arizona state senate passed Senate Bill 1070.  This is an immigration control law that its proponents argue allows law enforcement officers to effectively do their jobs.  On April 13, Nicholas Riccardi of the Protestors of SB 1070Los Angeles Times wrote, “The bill, known as SB 1070, makes it a misdemeanor to lack proper immigration paperwork in Arizona. It also requires police officers, if they form a “reasonable suspicion” that someone is an illegal immigrant, to determine the person’s immigration status.”

The bill’s opponents argue that the wording of the law opens the door for racial profiling.  Technically, the bill refers to all undocumented immigrants from all countries of origin.  However, pundits worry that allowing police officers to demand paperwork from anyone they suspect of being illegal aliens will lead to a minority of people willing to strictly enforce the law, and ultimately lead to Arizona’s Latino and Mexican population to be targeted.

Since the passage of the law, athletes and personalities, mostly from the arena of Major League baseball, have spoken out against the bill.  Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen along with Adrian Gonzalez, the first baseman for the San Diego Padres, have already presented the notion of boycotting the 2011 All-Star Game, which is scheduled to be held in Arizona’s Chase Field.

Rod Barajas, the catcher for the Mets whose father is of Mexican descent, spoke on the issue as well.  “If a blond-haired, blue-eyed Canadian gets pulled over,” he said,  “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?”

What may prove more troubling than the All-Star Game coming next summer is Major League Baseball’s longtime relationship with the state of Arizona in regards to the eight weeks of spring training.  During this time, thousands of ballplayers, many of whom hail from countries other than America, descend on Arizona to participate in the Cactus League.  Though almost all of them are here legally, most are kids barely of high school age, who have been displaced from the culture they once knew and thrust into a world of smokeless tobacco, rosin bags, and pine tar.

Watch the movie Sugar.  Tell me that Miguel “Sugar” Santos wouldn’t have been askedMiguel Sugar Santos to present his papers under the stipulations of SB 1070.  What are the odds that an 18 year-old transplanted Dominican carries his work visa around with him at all times?

Look, I write for Seamheads.com, not the Huffington Post.  It’s not my job or my desire to stand up on a soapbox and tell the Arizona legislators what to do or where to go.  Mike Lupica has already done so brilliantly.  Ross Douthat analyzed the issues quite expertly in Monday’s New York Times.

However, Major League Baseball finds itself in a seminal position, where it can help determine the outcome of this debate.  Bud Selig could force MLB to re-evaluate its decision to allow Phoenix to host the All-Star Game, ostensibly holding millions of dollars in tourist revenue for ransom.  Baseball players and athletes whose followings are exponentially larger than my own have already begun to speak out against the law. Even Jesse Jackson’s getting in on the action, so you know it’s got to be an important issue.

For those who would stand up and cry foul, arguing that athletes should be seen and not heard, I wonder if you’ve lived inside the fictitious walled-off world of the Truman Show for the majority of your life.  You’ve clearly missed the past century of professional athletics.  The list of sports figures who have taken up the reigns of civil rights and political activism is a mile long.

Jackie Robinson and Roberto Clemente fought the segregation and inherent stereotypes undermining Major League Baseball.  Almost ten years earlier, Max Baer, a Jewish boxer with the Star of David proudly emblazoned on his trunks, defeated Nazi Alifigurehead heavyweight Max Schmeling in Yankee Stadium.  Jesse Owens stunned Berlin, Joe Louis exhilarated Yankee Stadium, Billie Jean King defeated Bobby Riggs, Muhammad Ali stood against the Vietnam War and racial intolerance in America, the post-apartheid South African Rugby team united a nation torn by segregation; all but a few examples of the central position sports can assume in our society.

In 1993, the NFL fought Arizona’s statewide refusal to acknowledge Martin Luther King Day as a holiday.  It pulled the Super Bowl out from under Arizona and moved it to the Rose Bowl.

I applaud the members of Major League Baseball who have taken advantage of their First Amendment rights and spoken out against SB 1070.  All too often, we sports fans bemoan the fact that today’s athletes aren’t role models.  They show little love for the games, we say,  and they’re only in it for the money.  Then, when something like this comes along, we dismiss them as uneducated hicks here for our amusement whose opinions mean nothing.

We can’t have it both ways.

This law affects them as much as any of us.  Why not hear what they have to say?

Comments

7 Responses to “Senate Bill 1070 and Baseball’s Role in the Coming Storm”
  1. mark deitch says:

    Nice job, Josh.

  2. umpireplb says:

    Thanks for naming those brave athletes who took a stand and risked everything when it mattered most. Curt Flood should also be remembered for his courageous stance against the reserve clause, which held players in thrall to the team that owned them as if they were indentured servants. Flood fought for the right to become a free agent, and even though he lost his suit in 1970, he paved the way for Dave McNally and Andy Messersmith to win theirs five years later under Marvin Millers guidance, which freed their fellow players from the shackles of perpetual ownership by a major league club. Flood’s distaste for the reserve clause and the system it bolstered stemmed from his belief that it represented a form of institutionalized servitude which prevented him from signing with a team of his choice and forced him to play for the team to whom he was traded against his wishes, the Phillies, whom he viewed as having some of the most racist fans in the league. He chose to risk his career and then retire rather than play for a team whose fans he rejected because of their racist tendencies.

    It doesn’t take a great leap of faith to imagine where Curt Flood would stand on the issue of Arizona’s new law. He was a proud and principled man who would not compromise his code of ethical conduct no matter how much it cost him in the long run. He would speak out against the law and everything unconstitutional, not to mention shortsighted, that it represents – and then he would stay far, far away from Arizona.

    I’m making my stand with Curt Flood. There’s something very, very wrong about S.B. 1070; it’s as if we’re picking on the most vulnerable among us instead of on the culprits who are actually responsible for the rage now being directed towards illegal immigrants. Until we attack the problems of endless, financially draining war driven by corrupt lawmakers bought and paid for by the corporations whose interests they promote through the legislation they enact; the steadily snowballing erosion of our civil and constitutional rights; lack of affordable housing for the middle and impoverished classes; deficient and excessively expensive health care; and our dependence on foreign and fossil fuels, not to mention pharmaceuticals and sugar, empowering police to stop and detain anyone they think looks or acts like an illegal immigrant will be akin to putting a bandaid on a tumor.

    S.B. 1070 won’t fix what’s broken, so as Josh Deitch suggests, why not try another approach that might? One that won’t divide communities and families, one that won’t confuse and confound people with its hypocrisy or cause untold harm to a country that once welcomed its tired, poor, and tempest-tossed immigrants.

  3. Bob F. says:

    The picture says it all. Undocumented and unafraid. AZ is finally doing the right thing for its citizens. Major league baseball should be supporting the majority of the people of Arizona who favor this legislation (as does the majority of the country as a whole), rather than threaten a boycott of a state for doing the right thing.

    Lets have Major League Baseball stand up for obeying the law!

  4. Norm Coleman says:

    Here! Here! i can assure you there is no way in hell Phoenix police would pull me
    over (a grey haired senior) when I visit Scottsdale next March to watch the Giants. But, what if I bring my Latina friend, a women in her mid twenties with me, slightly dark skin. What if she does not have papers, she has no passport and does not drive? Will they stop her and ask for papers? Can she be busted?

    I have had many Latino and Latina friends who grew up in East L.A. Ask them about
    the harasment they received from East L.A. hard nosed cops. Ask any African/American how many times they have been stopped and questioned by overzealous, bigoted cops. Most cops I believe are good people but we know that many bigoted ones always manage to get in the barrol.

  5. A.C. says:

    This is ridiculous. Why is that the people who want to enforce the laws are called bad guys and worse?

    I think that nearly everyone would agree that the United States has the right to control its borders and set its immigration policies. Moreover, I think that the large majority of Americans would say that illegal immigrants should return to their countries and follow the government’s rules for entering the U.S. Then, why don’t we hear the politicians saying this?

    Moreover, I frequently hear people say that illegal immigrants just want to come to the U.S. to work and send money back to their families, etc.. But they clearly want to do more; they want to live here permanently; bring their wives and parents and extended families; have children, etc. The problem is that many of these workers are low-skilled and they are a net tax drain on our schools, hospitals, and social services.

  6. D. Thomson says:

    For all those worried about 1070, it’s no different from current federal law, but we, in AZ, want all the laws enforced concerning immigration. We can’t handle all these people. As a teacher, I have seen how the schools have been diminished by the overwhelming numbers of students who can’t read and write in English. Taxpayers are tired of footing the bills for these people. If baseball doesn’t want to come, good. Our lives will be better off if all these groups don’t come to AZ. Most of the athletes haven’t read the bill or can’t read the bill. It hasn’t even gone into effect yet, but panic is sweeping the country. If the Attorney General hasn’t read the bill and makes outlandish statements, why shouldn’t these overpriced, immmature athletes do the same thing. Who cares if we have baseball or any other sport in AZ. We’ll still be nice and warm, while the rest of the country shivers.

  7. Josh Deitch says:

    Honestly? I’m not condemning America’s immigration policy and laws. Arizona felt that the federal government had not effectively enforced its laws, so it made its own reactionary law. American border policy already requires immigrants to have papers on them at all times. The argument for or against SB 1070 has little to do with economics and everything to do with basic human rights.

    As human beings, people with citizenship of any country have the freedom of privacy and the Bill of Rights guarantees them freedom from illegal search and seizure. In order to have charges brought against me, a police officer must have probable cause to stop me. Probable cause does not include the color of a person’s skin or the language that person speaks. SB 1070 removes probable cause from the equation and that’s a frightening prospect.

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