Sports and politics do not overlap all that often, but when they do you tend to have memorable moments: Muhammad Ali refusing to fight in the Vietnam War, the Black Power salute from the 1968 Olympics, and African-American Jesse Owens winning four gold medals at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, to name a few. America may be on the cusp of a similar intersection between athletics and politics.
Many of Major League Baseball’s biggest stars are Latinos. Everyone knows who they are: Albert Pujols, CC Sabathia, David Ortiz, Alex Rodriguez, Hanley Ramirez, and Miguel Cabrera are just some of the Latinos who represented the American and National Leagues in the 2010 MLB All-Star game on Tuesday, July 13.
Several of the Latino All-Stars, along with over 100,000 Americans according to the website Move The Game have come out in opposition to Arizona SB 1070, which at least one All-Star referred to as “dumb” (Sports Illustrated). Arizona SB 1070, as most people know, is the highly publicized law that requires Arizona officers to check the immigration status of anyone they encounter during the course of their duty if they have a “reasonable suspicion” that the person is an undocumented immigrant.
As this blog reported in May, the 2011 All-Star Game is currently scheduled to take place in Phoenix, Arizona, which has drawn the ire from many in the baseball community. The Major League Baseball Players Association started the onslaught back in April when they released a statement condemning the newly signed law. The voices got louder in June and high-profile players and coaches started announcing that they would boycott the 2011 All-Star Game. The chatter reached a fever pitch last week at the 2010 Game.
While others have yet to decide if they will boycott, several players, including arguably baseball’s biggest star, Pujols, have come out in opposition to the law. During the 2010 All-Star break, Pujols said, “I’m opposed to it. How are you going to tell me that, me being Hispanic, if you stop me and I don’t have my ID, you’re going to arrest me? That can’t be.” (Huffington Post). In addition, current Major League home run leader Jose Bautista said, “Hopefully there are some changes in the law before [next year]. We have to back up our Latin communities.” A representative for the Players Association stated that the union will support the decision of any player who decides to boycott the 2011 Game.
The boycotting of a prestigious all-star game would not be unprecedented. The 1965 American Football League (which would become the modern-day AFC after a 1970 merger with the NFL) All-Star Game was scheduled to be held at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans but it instead took place in Houston, Texas. What happened? Many of the African-American and white players refused to play because of race-related slights that athletes had suffered in New Orleans.
It will be interesting to see in the coming weeks who will join the ranks of those players planning to boycott the 2011 Game. Will this story be a blip in the news headlines or a lasting example of athletes making a political statement? Only time will tell.