Who’s afraid of a boycott?

May 12, 2010

Arizona Diamondbacks owner Ken Kendricks, fearing a boycott, claims that he doesn't support the state's new anti-immigrant law--but he does support the politicians behind it.

"IF YOU'RE upset with Arizona's immigrant laws, please don't take it out on Major League Baseball! Sports and politics do not mix!"

With a near-military discipline, this had been the message pushed by much of the sports media in conjunction with the Arizona Republican Party. The aim has been to head off any notion of boycotting the Arizona Diamondbacks or calling for the 2011 All-Star Game to be removed from their home at Chase Field in Phoenix.

Gov. Jan Brewer was given a page on espn.com to say that boycott campaigns aimed at sports are "inappropriate and misguided."

Diamondbacks executive Derrek Hall parroted the governor, calling protesters "misguided" because "the organization doesn't take political positions."

Team owner and Republican Party bankroller Ken Kendrick was shaken enough to release a statement saying that he personally "opposes" the bill.

THERE'S ONE problem with this public relations fusillade: it's based on a fundamental lie. Ken Kendrick is showing through his actions that he not only supports this bill, he is using his position as Diamondback team owner to do it.

Columnist: Dave Zirin

On May 20, The Nation has learned, Ken Kendrick is holding a private fundraiser inside his owners box at Chase Field for SB 1070 supporter, state Sen. Jonathan Paton.

The fundraiser will be taking place during the D-backs game against the San Francisco Giants. Paton is attempting to make the leap from the state house to the U.S. Congress, and he is depending upon the deep pockets of Kendrick to make it happen.

Leave aside for a moment the ethical and perhaps legal ramifications of Ken Kendrick using a stadium built with $250 million in public dollars to raise money for his pet candidates. The fact is that while Kendrick publicly distances himself from the bill, he is using the home of the supposedly "apolitical" Diamondbacks organization as a fundraising center for SB 1070-supporting politicians.

As Paton says on his campaign Web site, "We need to secure the border, and we need to secure it now. That's why I voted for SB 1070, and that's why I urge the governor to sign it."

Jim Nintzel reported in the Tucson Weekly, "[B]oasting that he voted for it [SB 1070] before he resigned from the state Senate to [run for Congress]...Paton said that complaints about racial profiling have been overblown."

Paton has also received full-throated support from the author of SB 1070, state Sen. Russell Pearce. In an open letter, Pearce wrote glowingly of Paton:

I have served with Sen. Jonathan Paton for the last five years in the legislature. During that time, he has voted for every single anti-illegal immigration bill I have sponsored...He has done this despite pressure from the open borders crowd...He opposes amnesty or any path to citizenship for those illegally in the United States...

I am proud to have worked with him and know him to be a solid patriot. I believe he will make a great congressman for Southern Arizona, a congressman we can all be proud of."

Pearce himself has been under national scrutiny recently because of his disturbingly casual connections to white supremacist organizations. As Rachel Maddow highlighted on her show, Pearce has been photographed hugging neo-Nazi leader J.T. Ready. He also received unwanted attention by forwarding online articles written by the Nazi organization the National Alliance.

Jonathan Paton trumpets the support he receives from Russell Pearce. This is who Jonathan Paton is. This is who Ken Kendrick is using his publicly funded stadium to support.

Favianna Rodriguez, co-founder of Presente.org and leader of the All-Star Game boycott campaign MoveTheGame.org, said to me, "Latinos and their allies across the country are targeting Major League Baseball to show that laws like SB 1070 will have dire economic consequences. Mr. Kendrick's continued support of the politicians behind SB 1070 will only further inspire that movement."

There is only one conclusion. The Arizona Diamondbacks should continue to be boycotted and protested until Ken Kendrick stops supporting these politicians and using his publicly funded stadium to do so.

The All-Star Game should be moved, and anyone who says that sports and politics don't mix should first aim that cliché in the direction of the Arizona Diamondbacks owner's box. Keep the protests going. Keep calling to have the All-Star Game moved. Any other strategy would truly be "misguided."

First published at TheNation.com.

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