Organizations, such as Change.org, are pushing MLB
to move the 2011 All-Star Game from Phoenix
over Arizona's new immigration law.
Politics and sports have always had a symbiotic relationship. One depends on the other for money, prestige and exposure. So it was no surprise that sports was reluctantly dragged into the immigration debate after the State of Arizona passed what most of the world refers to – incorrectly - as an anti-immigration bill.
Senate Bill 1070 has little to do with immigration and everything to do with illegal activity. It just so happens that the illegal activity the bill seeks to curtail is being in this country illegally. But in this time of extremes, where voices of reason - assuming there are any left in this country - are drowned out by hate-mongers and politicians advocating a self-serving party stance, it matters little what the truth is.
(POLL: Should MLB Move the 2011 All-Star Game from Arizona Over the State's New Immigration Law?)
Of course, the federal government has the primary responsibility to deal with immigration. But for political reasons, the feds haven’t made protecting our borders a priority. Arizona has undeniably felt the impact of federal inaction. Approximately ten percent of the state’s six-million-plus residents are in this country illegally. The economy of the state is in shambles, due in part to the increased cost of services for illegal immigrants. Crime committed by illegal immigrants has put Arizona residents – including the Hispanic population which constitutes almost 30% of the state’s residents - on edge, and demanding that the government do something to protect them.
So Arizona, in an attempt to preserve the safety of its citizens and its crumbling economy, decided to make a statement and send a message to Washington. In short, Senate Bill 1070 makes it a crime to be in Arizona illegally, which is determined not by state standards, but by federal standards. And that’s where things got hairy.
Although the new law sets forth what documentation can be used to prove a person is in this country legally, under what circumstances a law enforcement officer can ask for such documentation is less clear. Even after the bill was amended to clarify when a law enforcement officer can request proof of legal status - after an individual has been detained for the commission of a crime - opponents of the legislation raised the specter of “racial profiling.”
It’s doubtful if Senate Bill 1070 will ever be enforced. The bill won’t take effect until 90 days after the legislature adjourns, which puts us into August. At least two lawsuits seeking to declare the bill unconstitutional have already been filed, with more to come. If legal action is unsuccessful, a referendum to overturn the law is expected to be on the ballot no later than 2012.
Nonetheless, opponents of the bill immediately began advocating for boycotts against Arizona businesses and sports teams, hoping, in the words of one Arizona Congressional Representative, to “devastate” the state’s economy, which is a unique way to represent one’s constituents.
The Arizona team that will bear the brunt of the boycotts will be baseball’s Diamondbacks, who were the target of protests when they recently played in Denver and Chicago. The Coyotes’ season is over. The Suns are in the midst of the NBA playoffs, and have, at most, a few more weeks to play. The Cardinals are two months away from training camp and with only an eight-game home schedule, the NFL team has far less to lose from boycotts than the D’backs who are barely a month into their season.
Protestors are also calling for Major League Baseball to move the All Star Game scheduled for Phoenix in 2011, putting Commissioner Bud Selig in a position he loathes – a public hot seat. The MLBPA and a number of Latin players – who make up 27% of MLB team rosters – have voiced concern over Senate Bill 1070.
The specter of cops running wild on the streets of Arizona accosting people – including Hispanic athletes - is fear mongering of the worst kind. Such action is illegal under the U.S. Constitution and Senate Bill 1070. The preamble to the bill states that, “This section shall be implemented in a manner consistent with federal laws regulating immigration, protecting the civil rights of all persons and respecting the privileges and immunities of United States citizens.”
But forget the truth, this is about politics. And that makes it a contest sports cannot win.
Jordan Kobritz is a staff member of the Business of Sports Network. He is a former attorney, CPA, and Minor League Baseball team owner. He is an Assistant Professor of Sport Management at Eastern New Mexico University and teaches the Business of Sports at the University of Wyoming. He looks forward to your comments and can be contracted, here.
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