MLB All-Star Game should emigrate from Arizona over immigration

by | CBSSports.com National Columnist
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The following scenario could actually happen. In America. In the 21st century ...

It's 2011 and the All-Star Game is just a few days away in Arizona. Albert Pujols decides to take a stroll in downtown Phoenix. A police officer drives by and doesn't realize that Pujols is a baseball icon. To the officer, he looks potentially like an illegal alien. He is, after all, brown skinned.

Could you imagine Albert Pujols not taking part in the All-Star Game? (Getty Images)  
Could you imagine Albert Pujols not taking part in the All-Star Game? (Getty Images)  
Pujols is stopped by the police. "Papers please," the officer says. If Pujols somehow forgot to bring proof he's an American citizen on his walk, then potentially off to jail he'd go.

Due to some of the most draconian immigration laws in the world, that scene could actually happen to Pujols (who became an American in 2007) or any number of other Latino baseball players who step foot in the state of Arizona.

This is why Major League Baseball should join other boycotters and pull the 2011 All-Star Game out of the state.

What's happening in Arizona isn't something from a science-fiction movie or 1930s Germany. It's real and the sports world (especially baseball) might be drastically affected because of these laws in the months and years to come. Arizona should change its state motto from "God Enriches" to "Papers please."

The new law gives police the right to stop, question and detain anyone "if reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the U.S." Basically anyone who looks or sounds Latino is targeted by the law. It's all very Fahrenheit 451.

Baseball is becoming the centrifuge of this increasingly heated argument, which is leaking into the sports world because one-third of the sport is Latino. There are also four managers, one general manager and an owner who are Latino.

I can tell you that MLB is closely monitoring the situation. It's also clear this is an issue that could eventually resonate across the entire sports spectrum.

This is what many of you are going to say: "Sports leagues should stay out of politics."

If you believe that's what sports leagues do, then you live on a unicorn ranch.

The weighty power of sports leagues has always been utilized to help enact social change, going back to Jackie Robinson and beyond.

  • The International Olympic Committee for years banned South Africa from participating in the Olympics because of its oppressive government policies.
  • The United States boycotted the 1980 Summer Olympics after the USSR invaded Afghanistan. The Soviets turned around and boycotted the 1984 Games in L.A.
  • The NCAA has refused to conduct pre-assigned championship events like the NCAA tournament in states that fly the Confederate flag.
  • Go to Opensecrets.org and see the massive contributions sports leagues quietly make to politicians to enact change that favors those leagues.

The most heartening example of this comes from the 1990s. When the state of Arizona refused to honor Martin Luther King Day, the NFL and union took action. The league voted to yank Super Bowl XXVII out of Arizona and move it to the Rose Bowl. Faced with losing millions of dollars, Arizona voters finally backed the holiday and the NFL awarded Super Bowl XXX to Tempe.

So sports leagues have long tossed around their hefty weight and privately attempted to force change either for their own benefit or occasionally for the greater good.

If baseball pulls the All-Star Game, does that mean the league should continue by, saying, moving the Diamondbacks or taking further measures such as pulling all of the spring training games? No, of course not. I'm asking MLB to make a simple, but powerful, statement the way the NFL did with the Super Bowl.

Keeping the All-Star Game out of Arizona until legislators come to their senses would be a powerful move that would need no follow-up.

The All-Star Game is one of baseball's jewels and it should be in its interest -- perhaps morally imperative considering the ethnic makeup of the sport -- to make a strong statement against such an un-American law.

If you hate me using Pujols as an example, insert any Latino baseball player or someone else. It could happen to you.

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