Thursday, June 30, 2011

Baseball and Immigration

Baseball's midsummer classic is in Phoenix this year. Besides the heat (at least the stadium has a retractable roof) fans going to the game will probably encounter protesters reminding them of the state's tough anti-immigration laws.

The Arizona Diamondbacks had already been chosen to host the game before the issue exploded. When it did, players and human rights' groups urged MLB to move the game. That didn't happen.

Some Hispanic ballplayers have said they would avoid the All-Star Game this year. A U.S. senator has called for a boycott. There have been stories from time to time in the mainstream media, but the threat has not gained much traction. 

Commissioner Bud Selig, never shy about promoting the breaking of baseball's color line in 1947 (never mind that baseball had maintained that line and most in the game at the time would have just as soon let it stay in place), hasn't seen fit to speak out on the issue.

The NBA commissioner, David Stern, backed the Phoenix Suns when they wore "Los Suns" jerseys for a playoff game in May 2010. He called the gesture "appropriate." I wouldn't doubt that someone with an eye on the NBA's bottom line thought the league should have just ignored the issue. But to the Suns' and Stern's credit they didn't.

It's nice that baseball like to celebrate Jackie Robinson every year. MLB even stages a conference where racial issues are discussed.

Given that, it's stunning that Selig can't see a current issue that merits his attention. It's time for baseball's silence to end.

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