Baseball Feels the Social Media Heat on Arizona’s Immigration Law
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 Presente.org, 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.”