Senate Bill 1070 and Baseballâ€™s Role in the Coming Storm
Thereâ€™s a storm brewing in the southwest.Â It doesnâ€™t matter how strong the retractable roof that intermittently hangs over Chase Field might be, this tempest will flood baseball in Arizona.Â This inclement weather threatens to do more than delay a first pitch or wash out a baseball game.Â Instead, weâ€™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.Â On April 20, 2010, the Arizona state senate passed Senate Bill 1070.Â This is an immigration control law that its proponents argue allows law enforcement officers to effectively do their jobs.Â On April 13, Nicholas Riccardi of the Los Angeles Times wrote, â€œThe 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.â€
The billâ€™s opponents argue that the wording of the law opens the door for racial profiling.Â Technically, the bill refers to all undocumented immigrants from all countries of origin.Â 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 Arizonaâ€™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.Â 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 Arizonaâ€™s Chase Field.
Rod Barajas, the catcher for the Mets whose father is of Mexican descent, spoke on the issue as well.Â â€œIf a blond-haired, blue-eyed Canadian gets pulled over,â€ he said,Â â€œDo you think they are going to ask for their papers? Noâ€¦I donâ€™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?â€
What may prove more troubling than the All-Star Game coming next summer is Major League Baseballâ€™s longtime relationship with the state of Arizona in regards to the eight weeks of spring training.Â During this time, thousands of ballplayers, many of whom hail from countries other than America, descend on Arizona to participate in the Cactus League.Â 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.Â Tell me that Miguel â€œSugarâ€ Santos wouldnâ€™t have been asked to present his papers under the stipulations of SB 1070.Â 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.Â Itâ€™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.Â Mike Lupica has already done so brilliantly. Â Ross Douthat analyzed the issues quite expertly in Mondayâ€™s New York Times.
However, Major League Baseball finds itself in a seminal position, where it can help determine the outcome of this debate.Â 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.Â Baseball players and athletes whose followings are exponentially larger than my own have already begun to speak out against the law. Even Jesse Jacksonâ€™s getting in on the action, so you know itâ€™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 youâ€™ve lived inside the fictitious walled-off world of the Truman Show for the majority of your life.Â Youâ€™ve clearly missed the past century of professional athletics.Â 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.Â Almost ten years earlier, Max Baer, a Jewish boxer with the Star of David proudly emblazoned on his trunks, defeated Nazi figurehead heavyweight Max Schmeling in Yankee Stadium.Â 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 Arizonaâ€™s statewide refusal to acknowledge Martin Luther King Day as a holiday.Â 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.Â All too often, we sports fans bemoan the fact that todayâ€™s athletes arenâ€™t role models.Â They show little love for the games, we say, Â and theyâ€™re only in it for the money.Â Then, when something like this comes along, we dismiss them as uneducated hicks here for our amusement whose opinions mean nothing.
We canâ€™t have it both ways.
This law affects them as much as any of us.Â Why not hear what they have to say?