United States: Protesters pitch boycott against Arizona

This will be the last column I write about the major league baseball team Arizona Diamondbacks in the foreseeable future. For me, they do not exist.

They will continue to not exist in my mind as long as the horribly named anti-immigrant “Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act”, signed into law on April 23, remains on the books in Arizona.

This law has brought echoes of apartheid to the state.

One Democratic lawmaker said it made Arizona a “laughingstock”, but it’s difficult to find an ounce of humour in this kind of venal legislation. The law makes it a crime to walk the streets without clutching your passport, green card, visa, or state ID.

It not only empowers, but absolutely requires cops to demand paperwork if they so much as suspect a person of being undocumented. A citizen can, in fact, sue any police officer they see not harassing suspected immigrants.

The bill also makes it a class one misdemeanor for anyone to “pick up passengers for work” if their vehicle blocks traffic. And it makes a second violation of any aspect of the law a felony.

In response, Representative Raul Grijalva, who’s from Arizona, has called for a national boycott against the state. Grijalva said: “Do not vacation and or retire there.”

He got so many hateful threats that he had to close his Arizona offices at noon on April 23.

Many of us aren't in the imminent vacation or retirement mode. We do, however, live in baseball cities where the Arizona Diamondbacks come to play.

When they arrive in my hometown in Washington, my back will be turned, and my television will be off.

This is not merely because they happen to be the team from Arizona. The D-backs organisation is a primary funder of the state Republican Party, which has been driving the measure through the legislature.

As the official Arizona Diamondbacks boycott call states: “In 2010, the National Republican Senatorial Committee’s third highest Contributor was the [executives of the] Arizona Diamondbacks, who gave [US]$121,600; furthermore, they also contributed $129,500, which ranked as the eighteenth highest contribution to the Republican Party Committee.”

The team’s big boss, Ken Kendrick, and his family members made contributions to the Republicans totaling a staggering $1,023,527.

The Kendricks follow in the footsteps of team founder and former owner Jerry Colangelo. Along with other baseball executives and ex-players, Colangelo launched a group called Battin’ 1000: a national campaign that uses baseball memorabilia to raise funds for a Campus for Life, the largest anti-choice student network in the country.

Colangelo was also deputy chair of Bush/Cheney 2004 in Arizona. His deep pockets created what was called the Presidential Prayer Team — a private evangelical group that claims to have signed up more than 1 million people to drop to their knees and pray daily for Bush.

Under Colangelo, 2008 Republican presidential candidate John McCain also owned a piece of the team. McCain said before the Arizona bill’s passage that he “understood” why it was being passed because “the drivers of cars with illegals in it are intentionally causing accidents on the freeway.”

This is who the Arizona Diamondback executives are. This is the tradition they stand in.

The Diamondbacks’ owners have every right to their politics, and if we policed the political proclivities of every owner’s box there might not be anyone left to root for (except NFL football team Green Bay Packers, who don't have an owner's box).

But this is different. The law is an open invitation to racial profiling and harassment. The boycott call is coming from inside the state.

If the owners of the Diamondbacks want to underwrite an ugly edge of bigotry, we should raise our collective sporting fists against them.

A boycott is also an expression of solidarity with Diamondback players such as Juan Guitterez, Gerardo Parra and Rodrigo Lopez. They shouldn’t be put in a position where they're cheered on the playing field and then asked for their papers when the uniform comes off.

The idea of protesting against the Diamondbacks wherever they play is catching fire. It nationalises an issue many on the anti-immigrant right would rather see tucked away in the shadows of the south-west.

The April 28 protest at Coors Field in Denver, home of the Colorado Rockies, had 50 people rallying as people made their way inside to watch the game against the Diamondbacks. Season ticket holder Jim Bullington tried to give his Rockies vs Diamondback tickets back to the team, but they refused to accept them.

Bullington told me: “Until I hear him say otherwise, I see this racist unconstitutional law as being supported financially by the owner of the D-backs.

“My friends and I in Denver won’t be going to these games.”

On April 29, a protest took place against the D-backs game in Chicago, organised over Facebook. Protests are scheduled outside D-back games throughout May.

[Reprinted from Edge of Sports.]

If you like our work, become a supporter

Green Left is a vital social-change project and aims to make all content available online, without paywalls. With no corporate sponsors or advertising, we rely on support and donations from readers like you.

For just $5 per month get the Green Left digital edition in your inbox each week. For $10 per month get the above and the print edition delivered to your door. You can also add a donation to your support by choosing the solidarity option of $20 per month.

Freecall now on 1800 634 206 or follow the support link below to make a secure supporter payment or donation online.