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Joe Guzzardi: Hispanic Lobby’s Demand for All-Star Game Boycott a Big Bust

Opponents strike out in their efforts to sway MLB's Bud Selig and the public over Arizona's SB 1010 immigration law

Late last spring, Major League Baseball was under heavy, relentless pressure from special-interest groups to pull the 2011 All-Star Game out of Phoenix. Commissioner Bud Selig’s office was swamped with phone calls and letters from civil rights and Hispanic pro-immigration organizations demanding that the game be relocated. The reason: They object to Arizona’s Senate Bill 1070, legislation that under certain circumstances would permit law enforcement officers to ask residents for proof of legal immigration status.

For a variety of excellent reasons, Selig dismissed his critics. First, what goes on in state, federal or local politics is not an issue for professional sports. At best, if MLB had acted in support of groups opposed to S.B. 1070, it would draw the ire of those who favor it — by far a larger number. A Pew Research poll shows that 73 percent of Americans agree that requiring people to verify their immigration status when police ask them to do so is appropriate.

Second, although a year may seem like adequate lead time to rearrange the All-Star Game’s logistics, it isn’t. Booked months in advance, hotel and plane reservations for players, reporters and officials would have to be juggled. More importantly, stating that moving the game would cost “innocent” citizens jobs, local business groups including the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce urged Selig to stand pat.

Third, regardless of personal feelings about S.B. 1070, no one can argue that its potential impact could have the magnitude of the 9/11 terrorist attacks or President John F. Kennedy’s assassination. In 2001, the National Football League reluctantly rescheduled — not relocated — its second-week games. But in 1963, after Kennedy had been killed in Dallas, the NFL played.

Among the loudest voices objecting to Arizona hosting the All-Star Game was Boston Red Sox first baseman Adrian Gonzales. Born in San Diego but raised in Tijuana, Gonzalez said last year: “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.” This year, elected to the starting American League team, Gonzalez, while insisting that his earlier comments were misinterpreted, deferred: “I’m not that much into politics.”

At issue today is not S.B. 1070‘s pros or cons, even though I am solidly behind it, but the thousands of column inches given to last year’s stories about the protesters’ objections. Since Selig ignored their demands from the outset, they never had the slightest chance to achieve their aim.

Ridiculous claims made about S.B. 1070 went unchallenged and, although they have since been proven false, haven’t been acknowledged as extreme and purposely misleading. Immigration advocates, for example, predicted that Hispanic players would be “rounded up” and targeted for deportation during Arizona’s spring training games. That never happened.

In the meantime, fans from all over the world pour in to Phoenix. Starting at the Monday morning Fanfest and ending late Tuesday evening with the game’s last pitch, two solid days of baseball activities will be held to the delight of onlookers.

The huge yawn that anti-S.B. 1070 groups encountered proves that public opinion is on the side of law enforcement and not the few noisy voices of those who object to Arizona’s effort to curtail illegal immigration.

— Joe Guzzardi has written editorial columns — mostly about immigration and related social issues — since 1990 and is a senior writing fellow for Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS). After 25 years as an English as a Second Language teacher in the Lodi Unified School District, Guzzardi has retired to Pittsburgh. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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