Wrigley Field, known usually for it's green ivy and drunken yuppies, has entered the center of a national political firestorm. The Arizona Diamondbacks are in Chicago this weekend, and they've brought their state's problem with them. Since Jan Brewer signed last week's controversial Immigration bill, boycotts of Arizona products have been popping up around the country. As demonstrated by the pickets in Chicago, these boycotts have reached Major League Baseball.
The presumed reason why the D-Backs have drawn heat is their owner Ken Kendrick. Kendrick is one of the faces of the franchise, as well as a primary booster for the same politicians who created the bill. Nearly every Arizona business is experiencing losses right now, so it's not surprising that an organization with close ties to the controversial bill is facing protests.
I've heard all the arguments for why protesting the Diamondbacks is pointless: It's unfair to single out Kendrick when there are many team owners. It's not the players fault what's going on in their state. It's just baseball, why bring important political issues into it?
This last point is the most hypocritical. The Diamondbacks have six Latino players on their active roster. I'm sure these guys are overjoyed that they can now legally be pulled over and hassled because of their race. The major argument against this bill is the question, "How does anybody know what an illegal immigrant looks like?" Rodrigo Lopez is a key cog in the D-backs rotation. If you put him in a lineup with four Mexican immigrants without seeing him before, can anybody say they could honestly pick Lopez out? I know I wouldn't be able to. Baseball isn't like football or basketball where the players always physically stand out. This adds to the allure of the game and the irony of this current situation.
This issue does not start or end with the Diamondbacks. Major League Baseball has turned a blind eye to players with murky immigration status such as Joakim Soria, all-star closer for the Royals. There are dozens of players in the big leagues alone whose citizenship is in question. What happens when the Royals come to Arizona? What happens if Soria makes the all-star game in 2011 which is scheduled to be played in Phoenix? If a police officer sees Soria are they legally bound to arrest him? If not, than the bill is pointless. It says that you can pick on the poor migrant worker but not the million-dollar baseball player. This is precisely why the MLB Players Union has come out strongly against the bill. They realize how absurd it is that a quarter of their league would be racially profiled if they lived in Arizona. For a league that's very conscious of their image within the Latino community, this issue could be devastating.
I don't suggest that the Diamondbacks organization take the blame for what their state government has done. Still, sports whether you like it or not, captivate a segment of the American population in a way politics never will. If picketing the Diamondbacks helps brings this issue to the opening of Sports Center, then by all means, get your signs ready.
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