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Baseball Feels the Social Media Heat on Arizona’s Immigration Law

By Tom Watson on May 5, 201015 Comments

Talk about a “flash cause.” The blowback over Arizona’s strict new anti-immigrant legislation is firing up protest on Facebook and Twitter – and the target of opportunity for activists is the country’s National Pastime. Online organizers – and Major League players themselves – are putting the heat on Major League Baseball and Commissioner Bud Selig to boycott Arizona as the host for the 2011 All Star Game and the site of a large portion of spring training facilities unless the state overturns the controversial new law, which makes it a state crime to be in Arizona without proper documents and requires local police to check the legal status of suspected undocumented immigrants. One campaign is using baseball card images of popular stars like Mariano Rivera and Albert Pujols with the word “suspect” stamped in red across their pictures.

That particular campaign – Move The Game – is  run by, a Latino-led online organizing initiative, which is dedicated to “an end to immigration policies that exploit workers and tear apart families.” And there are others: “10,000 Mets Fans for Boycotting Arizona’s 2011 All-Star Game” is a Facebook group sponsored by the Working Families Party in New York (there’s a Yankees version as well) – it already has 286 members. The biggest group (also led by Presente) – 1 MILLION Strong AGAINST the Arizona Immigration Law SB1070 – has already signed up 1.3 million people on Facebook.

Meanwhile, the Major League Players Association has strongly condemned the law and a wide range of players, including the Mets catcher Rod Barajas, Padres closer Heath Bell, Oriole shortstop Cesar Izturis, White Sox manager Ozzie Gullen, and Padres first-baseman Adrian Gonzalez have spoken out strongly. Last week, the opening game in a weekend series between the Arizona Diamondbacks and Chicago Cubs included a rousing street protest outside (the D’backs may face protests around the league, even through team ownership does not support the legislation). And on the hardcourt, the Phoenix Suns planned a Cinco de Mayo playoff protest against their home state law, wearing jerseys that read “Los Suns” in a show of support for the Latino community.

UPDATED: As noted by a commenter on this post, there are also pro-Arizona groups on Facebook, including Legal American Citizens Boycotting MLB if MLB boycotts Arizona, which has 186 members. It includes photos like this, and comments like this one: “The MLB needs to stop allowing foreign nationals to play in American sports. We need to let our own kids play and bring back American baseball.”

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  • Kate Johnson says:

    The All Stars game and spring training should pull out of Arizona. Why in the world would they offer the state their largess when almost a third of their players are Hispanic, and risk arrest if they don’t have their ID on them 24 hours a day, including by the pool?

    In fact any person of color would be foolish to schedule a vacation or attend a convention in this state.

    Jan Brewer, the unelected Governor of Arizona stated that regardless of the consequences, she’s glad she signed this law, and there’s a contingent who agree with her.

    Well, I say, let’s take them at their word. They don’t care about the consequences to the state? I wonder if they will change their tune when millions of dollars of Arizona taxpayers money goes to defend this law instead of going in to desperately needed social services, like education and police, in a state already hard hit by the crash of the housing market. In addition to the millions of dollars lost in the tourist trade, in an industry already hurting that will only be hurt more, despite the disingenuous claims of out of state supporters of this law, claiming they will be vacationing in Arizona.

    The same thing happened when Arizona, under Ev Mecham with the MLK holiday debacle. Jan Brewer worked closely with Ev on his staff until he was impeached.

    I doubt there’s anyone that doesn’t agree that immigration reform is needed, but this kind of knee jerk reactionary stupidity will only cause the already struggling state of Arizona to suffer more, as those of conscience vote about this situation with their wallet.

  • Tom Watson says:

    Great comment – I agree with you on the politics: if you state that you’re willing to take the consequences, then take them.

    And frankly, the All Stay game is a very powerful pressure point on this issue. Immigration reform is needed, but not this way.

  • Russ Miller says:

    Where is the “other side of the story”?

    Where are the names and links of the many Facebook Groups that are supporting the Arizona Illegal Immigration Bill, which merely reaffirms Federal Immigration Law?
    Legal American Citizens Boycotting MLB if MLB Boycotts Arizona

    I started this group just a few days ago.

    There are older more established groups with huge amounts of members.

  • Tom Watson says:

    Well, I disagree with you entirely on the aims of the Arizona Illegal Immigration Bill – and its horrible downsides – but fair, enough I’ll check out the Facebook stuff on the other side as well and try and add an update.

  • Ivan says:

    Governor Brewer, resign! You sad disgusting creature! God and history will judge you for signing this racist bill. No human is illegal and Congress must act on immigration NOW!

  • [...] And on a more serious note…Don’t go to Arizona, until they withdraw their anti-immigrant leg… [...]

  • Ryan says:

    Lets just throw out the rules to baseball too.

    Forthwith: Im starting a webpage banning the strikeout rule!
    You stay at the plate till you connect.
    No more strike outs.

    Sounds crazy right?
    See how important rules are now?

    “A nation without borders is not a nation at all.”
    Ronald Reagan

  • Tom Watson says:

    Sure, rules are important – but so is both economic growth and a humane policy.

    And it’s great you quoted Reagan, who signed the biggest immigration amnesty in U.S. history – that’s where we’re headed again, in the Gipper’s footsteps!

    Plus, with David Wright on the Mets, I’m all for your no-K rule….

  • Daniel Q. Kelley says:

    The current state of the law of Arizona is that if the police have probable cause that you have committed a crime or infraction, they can demand identification. If you’re not in the country legally, they can take action. This is entirely reasonable.

    Why do people want to move to this country? An underlying reason is that we have, to a greater extent than most countries, rule of law … a notable exception is the matter of immigration, in which the servile state (i.e., the US government) bows to the wishes of its master, big business, always looking for cheap labor. Meanwhile the illegal immigrants and the whole world is laughing at us, astounded that we would kill the golden goose, respect for the rule of law–US immigration law, not the Arizona laws.

    I love baseball. But the players and managers have a podium to speak from because of their baseball skills, not their powers of reasoning. So they emote about “anti-immigration” and similar nonsense. The Arizona law is not anti-immigrant. It is about respecting legal immigration.

  • Ryan says:

    Arizona simply answered a problem the federal gov wouldnt.
    This is what happens when the White House sits on their hands.
    States will rise up when pushed too far.
    Whats really scary is the movie “Machete” coming out soon.
    The director Robert Rodriguez envokes a border war.
    I will be banning that movie for sure…

    People not of this nation are demanding we change our laws.
    I say they dont have the right to demand such things.

  • Tom Watson says:

    Well, I think people want immigration reform – which will undoubtedly lead to the “legalization” – if such a callous term can be applied to human beings – of 90% of those already in the United States, and create more room for regular migratory working patterns in the southwest.

    I don’t meant to be flippant – security is important. And border control is a real issue.

    But a border war is silly in my view. And states rising up? Well that’s treason – states cannot abrogate Federal law.

  • Tom Watson says:

    Respectfully, I disagree – I believe it’s virulently anti-immigrant and therefore deeply un-American at its core.

  • Daniel Q. Kelley says:

    Let me introduce you to Fictional Fred, who wants US law to authorize ten million more immigrants per year than does the current law. He also wants to deport illegal immigrants. Is Fred anti-immigrant?

  • Maria Gitin says:

    Immigration law must be maintained as federal law. It would be a nightmare to have state by state differences especially ones like this that by definition will lead to racial profiling. I applaud all of the businesses and sports franchises who are planning to boycott AZ and will do no business there until this law is overturned in federal court which it will be in a year or two, most likely at the Supreme Court level.

    As someone who put my life on the line against the greatest states’ rights battle of all time, the right of majority black Southern states to maintain segregation and prevent African American citizens from the right to vote, I am pleased at the strong and clear reaction to this new discriminatory law. Had we not protested en masse, the 1965 Voting Rights Act never would have been signed into law and we would still be living with exclusively white male representatives at all levels of government. That is not America.

    Yes we need reform and a clear path to citizenship, but this AZ law is not it.

  • Henry says:

    Hey, good stuff! Keep bringing it! :)

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