International Pastime: Why MLB Must Move the 2011 All-Star Game Out of Arizona

Lewie PollisSenior Analyst IIIMay 20, 2010

CHICAGO - APRIL 29:  Leon Jose Bicchieri (C) leads immigrant rights supporters during a rally outside Wrigley Field before the start of the Cubs' game against the Arizona Diamondbacks April 29, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. Dozens of people demonstrated outside the park calling for a boycott of the series to protest the passage of Arizona's controversial new immigration law.  (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Scott Olson/Getty Images

For those of you who’ve been living in a cave for the last few weeks, some crazy stuff is going on in Arizona.

A new state law requires police officers to check for immigration papers whenever they stop someone who “looks illegal.” Another new policy forbids people with accents from teaching English—I’m betting that won’t be enforced against Brooklyn inflections or Texas drawls—and bans ethnic studies in schools—because God forbid the victims of racial profiling should realize that they are an “oppressed minority.”

That’s why Major League Baseball must move the 2011 All-Star Game out of Phoenix.

We all have our own opinions, and I’m sure I’ll hear lots of them in the comments section. I’m guessing a fair number of people will chide me for mixing partisan politics with unifying, unbiased sport.

But that’s wrong. It’s not just that these laws are unjust; it is that they go against the principles for which the game stands.

You see, baseball does have an ideology. Embedded deep within the game’s traditions is the spirit of integration and harmony between people of all nations and colors, and Arizona’s actions are in direct conflict with this mentality.

Baseball knows no race or nationality. From Caracas to Johannesberg to Seoul, the game and its players are esteemed and idolized. Even Cuba begged the U.S. government to let its team travel to America for the World Baseball Classic.

Baseball doesn’t divide, it unites. In the Civil War, Union and Confederate troops would call ceasefires to play scrimmages (gives new meaning to the phrase “do or die”). And when President Bush wanted to send a symbol of patriotism after 9/11, he didn’t kick the first field goal at a Redskins game or shoot a ceremonial three-pointer before a Wizards game.

That’s why implicitly endorsing the state’s actions—as would be the case if Major League Baseball descends upon Phoenix for a week—is wrong.

This is a sport that looks to Civil Rights icon Jackie Robinson as the most revered player in its history. How would Robinson have felt about Major League Baseball being passive in this instance? In the words of Desmond Tutu, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

A quarter of MLB players are Hispanic. Albert Pujols and Felix Hernandez would have to be sure to bring their papers when they head to the Copper State, because they “look illegal.”

And why stop there? If, as the bill’s supporters claim, this isn’t about racial profiling, you’d better remember that immigrants don’t just come from the south. Ichiro, I’m going to need to see some ID.

Am I the only one who has a problem with this?

A 100-mph fastball is intimidating in any language, and a monster home run draws oohs and aahs from people of any culture. Why would Bud Selig & Co. even consider hosting the game’s brightest night from a place where such heterogeneous behavior is legally discouraged?

This is baseball’s chance to stand up for what it believes in. Because it’s not just the national pastime, it’s the international pastime.

In closing, I would like to ask those who differ from me ideologically to read up on the Mexican-American War. They’re stealing our jobs? How do you think we got Arizona?