A month ago, very few baseball fans could have identified the name Ken Kendrick (was that the third basemen whose defense stopped Joe DiMaggio's 56 game hitting streak? No, that was Ken Keltner.) Now he is known across the land as the owner of the Arizona Diamondbacks, and one of the primary financial backers of the state Republican Party who passed the anti-immigrant Senate Bill 1070, which codifies racial profiling in "the Grand Canyon State." His team has now morphed into the SB 1070 Traveling Road Show, drawing crowds of protestors to every park from Colorado to Chicago. Since the law was passed, numerous big leaguers and the Major League Players Association have also come out against the already infamous legislation. One of Kendrick's own players, Augie Ojeda, a US citizen born in Los Angeles, backed the union's opposition and said, "I don't know the details, but if I leave the park after a game and I get stopped, am I supposed to have papers with me? I don't think that's fair....My neighbor is a policeman. I asked him what it means, and he said he had no idea. If he doesn't know, I don't know who would."
Now Kendrick has emerged from the shadows to disassociate himself and his team from the bill... sort of. He had a team spokesperson release the following statement:
"Although D-backs' Managing General Partner Ken Kendrick has donated to Republican political candidates in the past, the organization has communicated to Arizona Boycott 2010 leader Tony Herrera that Kendrick personally opposes State (sic) Bill 1070."
The team also released an even more obtuse press release, saying,
"We acknowledge the statement from Major League Baseball Players Association Executive Director Michael Weiner and share the same concerns of the impact Arizona's immigration law will have on Major League players. However, we believe the federal government should act swiftly to address the immigration issue once and for all. We certainly are well aware of the struggles our state has due to federal inaction on illegal immigration. The fallout of recent state legislation has a direct impact on many of our players, employees and fans in Arizona, not to mention our local businesses, many of which are corporate partners of ours. Unfortunately, this whole situation is sad and disappointing for all of us who are associated with the Arizona Diamondbacks. We remain hopeful that this situation can be resolved in a manner that does not cause harm to our great state."
There are several lessons to be drawn from the above comments. First and foremost, they are concessions. Without the pressure of the Arizona Boycott, the union, and the stadium protests there is no way whatsoever Kendrick releases these statements. Secondly, now is the time to actually step up the protests at the park. We should demand that Ken Kendrick himself stop hiding behind PR flaks and speak to the cameras about his opposition to SB 1070. He should declare that not one more dime from his bottomless pockets will go toward the state Republican Party until SB 1070 is overturned. He should also support the effort to have Major League Baseball remove the All Star Game from Phoenix if SB 1070 is still on the books, no matter the personal financial cost. In other words, he should put his money where his PR director's mouth is. Until Ken Kendrick takes these, or similar, steps, all recent statements from the team should be seen for what they are: ploys to deflect and cushion the growing national anger toward his team and toward his state. If the D-backs are in your town, get there early with 50 of your closest friends and tell the fans that Arizona has earned pariah status until SB 1070 is filed into the dustbin of history.
First published at thenation.com