Just Say No To SB 1070

By Ronald Monestime
Updated: May 3, 2010

NEW YORK — On April 23, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed a controversial bill on illegal immigration whose aim is to identify, prosecute and deport immigrants residing in the country illegally.

Arizona Immigration Law SB1070 authorizes police officers to stop suspected illegal immigrants and demand proof of citizenship.

Since the signing of the bill into law, demonstrations and protests have proliferated throughout the country to oppose legislation that is widely viewed as “discriminatory” and “racist”.

Surprisingly, depending on your perspective, one of those opponents is the Major League Baseball Players Association. According to Yahoo! Sports, the players’ union issued a statement condemning the immigration law.

The statement, issued by the Executive Director of the MLBPA, Michael Weiner, is unequivocal in its opposition to the law and threatens action if it is not modified or repealed.

“The recent passage by Arizona of a new immigration law could have a negative impact on hundreds of Major League players who are citizens of countries other than the United States. These international players are very much a part of our national pastime and are important members of our Association.”

“Their contributions to our sport have been invaluable, and their exploits have been witnessed, enjoyed and applauded by millions of Americans. All of them, as well as the clubs for whom they play, have gone to great lengths to ensure full compliance with federal immigration law.

“The impact of the bill signed into law in Arizona last Friday is not limited to the players on one team. The international players on the Diamondbacks work and, with their families, reside in Arizona from April through September or October. In addition, during the season, hundreds of international players on opposing Major League teams travel to Arizona to play the Diamondbacks.”

“And, the spring training homes of half of the 30 Major League teams are now in Arizona. All of these players, as well as their families, could be adversely affected, even though their presence in the United States is legal. Each of them must be ready to prove, at any time, his identity and the legality of his being in Arizona to any state or local official with suspicion of his immigration status. This law also may affect players who are U.S. citizens but are suspected by law enforcement of being of foreign descent.

“The Major League Baseball Players Association opposes this law as written. We hope that the law is repealed or modified promptly. If the current law goes into effect, the MLBPA will consider additional steps necessary to protect the rights and interests of our members.

“My statement reflects the institutional position of the Union. It was arrived at after consultation with our members and after consideration of their various views on this controversial subject.”

The statement from the MLBPA was preceded by a letter written to MLB Commissioner Bud Selig by a New York congressman, whose district includes Yankee Stadium, urging him to pull the 2011 All-Star Game from Phoenix.

Calling the law “extremist” and “discriminatory,” Representative Jose Serrano (D-NY) wrote: “The All-Star Game is now not just a display of baseball’s best talent, but is also a display of the global reach of the game. It is at odds with the reality of the modern game to hold such a prestigious event in a state that would not welcome those same players if they did not play our national pastime.”

MLB has declined comment on the law. What do you think? Should there be a separation of sport and state here?

Either way this question is answered, Selig’s course of action, or inaction, in regards to this divisive issue will be his most significant since becoming baseball commissioner.

And even though they have declined to comment as well, you can be certain that commissioners David Stern (NBA), Roger Goodell (NFL), and Gary Bettman (NHL) are watching very closely in terms of gauging the impact the law and the debate will have on the Arizona franchises (Phoenix Suns, Arizona Cardinals, Phoenix Coyotes) in their respective leagues.