All-Stars call out Arizona

Commissioner Selig, it's time to stand up for the players in the league you run.

IF MAJOR League Baseball's 2011 All-Star Game is held as planned in the anti-immigrant "meth lab of democracy," otherwise known as Arizona, players are letting it be known that the show will go on without them.

Columnist: Dave Zirin

Dave Zirin Dave Zirin is the coauthor, with John Carlos, of The John Carlos Story, and author of Bad Sports: How Owners Are Ruining the Games We Love and A People's History of Sports in the United States, as well as two collections of his sports writings, Welcome to the Terrordome: The Pain, Politics and Promise of Sports and What's My Name, Fool? Sports and Resistance in the United States. He is a columnist for TheNation.com; his writings are also featured at his Edge of Sports Web site.

On the media day before last night's 2010 All-Star Game in Anaheim, several Latino stars were asked for their thoughts about next year's game taking place in a state being monitored by the justice department for racial profiling.

''If the game is in Arizona, I will totally boycott," said Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Yovani Gallardo. Kansas City reliever Joakim Soria and Detroit Tigers pitcher Jose Valverde seconded that emotion. ''They could stop me and ask to see my papers. I have to stand with my Latin community on this," said Suria.

The three have now joined San Diego Padres All-Star Adrian Gonzalez and his teammates Yorvit Torrealba and Heath Bell, along with Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, in stating that they would stay away from Arizona next summer.

Other even more prominent players didn't call for a boycott, but made their feelings exceedingly clear. Major League home run leader Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista said, ''Hopefully, there are some changes in the law before [next year]. We have to back up our Latin communities.''

The biggest star in the game, Albert Pujols, came out in direct opposition to his Arizona-law-loving manager Tony LaRussa, saying, "I'm opposed to it. How are you going to tell me that, me being Hispanic, if you stop me and I don't have my ID, you're going to arrest me? That can't be.''

A spokesperson for the Baseball Players Association also made news by saying the union would fully back any player who chose to boycott the 2011 game. (As a side note, Alex Rodriguez--Major League Baseball's answer to LeBron James in too many ways to name--was also asked about Arizona's laws, but just said, ''Wrong guy," and then pointed to other players in the locker room. Rodriguez then proceeded to drown after attempting to make love to his own reflection in a nearby duck pond.)

This flurry of commentary in the most staid of sports threatened to overshadow the Midsummer Classic and spotlight the political and moral impotence of Major League Commissioner Bud Selig. Selig refused to comment on the issue, and his one statement all season managed to be both puzzling and inane. (After much analysis, it was determined that Selig wants the game to stay in Arizona.) Selig's constant crutch of "no comment" may be coming to an abrupt end.

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THE SPORTS media wasn't asking about immigration out of concern for the 28 percent of Major Leaguers born outside the United States. They were probing the actual political thoughts of players because of a very real, growing movement of civil rights and grassroots organizations calling on MLB to move the game.

On Monday morning, the organization movethegame.org held a press conference where they showcased more than 100,000 names who had signed a petition calling on Major League Baseball to act. And an afternoon protest took place before last night's All-Star Game right at Angel Stadium on all-American Gene Autry Way in Anaheim.

As Wade Henderson, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and Janet Murguia, president of the National Council of La Raza, wrote in an op-ed on Alternet:

Unless the league acts, next year, our favorite All-Stars could enter a hostile environment, and the families, friends and fans of a third of the players could be treated as second-class citizens because of their skin color or the way they speak.

We are not asking Selig to weigh in on immigration policy; we are asking him to take a stand against bigotry and intolerance. Despite being petitioned by numerous members of Congress and civil rights, labor and social justice groups, Selig has not adequately addressed the issue.

He certainly has not. But if civil rights activists keep up the pressure on the outside and players keep speaking out on the inside, Selig will have no choice but to make perfectly clear where he stands on the most basic civil rights of his own players.

If the NFL could move the Super Bowl from Arizona two decades ago because they wouldn't acknowledge Martin Luther King's birthday; if the NCAA can keep postseason tournaments out of states that still fly the Confederate flag, then Bud Selig can wipe that hang-dog look off his face, straighten his back and do the right thing. If not for the people, he can do it for Pujols.

First published at TheNation.com.