CBSSports.com National Columnist

Embattled Arizona doesn't deserve hate, boycotts

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People are being kidnapped in Phoenix, and not every now and then. Every day. Phoenix, one of the biggest and brightest cities in this country, has been blighted by roughly one kidnapping per day over the past four years. Who's doing the kidnapping? Who's being kidnapped? Mostly illegal immigrants and drug dealers. They are the victims, yes, but they are the violators too. They are both.

Phoenix was once the fastest-growing big city in America. It was a place to go. Now it's a place to leave.

The other side of the Arizona immigration story? That hasn't been told much. (Getty Images)  
The other side of the Arizona immigration story? That hasn't been told much. (Getty Images)  
But you're not hearing that part of the story. You're not hearing about the creeping third-world kudzu spreading into Phoenix and throughout Arizona. Nope. You're hearing about the nerve -- the nerve -- of lawmakers and law-enforcers in Arizona who want to get a handle on their state before it spins out of control.

And so you're hearing about the role of baseball in this story. You're hearing about fans in Chicago, who are 1,804 ignorantly blissful miles from Phoenix and are boycotting the Arizona Diamondbacks when the Diamondbacks come to town to play the Cubs. And you're hearing about the role Major League Baseball should play, considering the 2011 All-Star Game is set for Phoenix. You're hearing that MLB should move the game, because baseball is nearly 30 percent Hispanic and out of respect to Hanley Ramirez and Albert Pujols and Alex Rodriguez, the game cannot be held in an unreasonable place that would demand that every member of its population be in this country legally.

What if Miguel Cabrera is walking to the ballpark and gets deported because he doesn't have his papers?!??

That's what you're hearing. It's not hysterical, because this is no laughing matter, but it is hysteria. One day it'll be a movie starring Nicolas Cage: Boycotting Arizona.

In the meantime you're hearing about Arizona Senate Bill 1070, signed into practice April 23, which allows police in that state to use "reasonable suspicion" to question or detain possible illegal immigrants. This needn't be a sports story, no, but it has become one. The Phoenix Suns wore "Los Suns" on their jersey for Game 2 against San Antonio in support of the Hispanic community. Grandstanding activists Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson have urged MLB commissioner Bud Selig to move the 2011 All-Star Game, and in lieu of that, 2011 All-Stars are being asked by no less a moral authority than The New York Times to come down with a case of the "Arizona flu" rather than play in that All-Star Game.

Of course, that article in the Times was written by an elderly gentleman who lives in an exclusive part of Long Island and won't have to come within 1,000 miles of the third-world violence that escalates by the day in Phoenix. It's easy for George Vecsey, and for people like him, to urge MLB players and other rich athletes to make a stand against Arizona's immigration law when people like Vecsey, and most of those rich athletes, aren't the ones trying to live there.

See, this story isn't as simple as the media and athletes, even thoughtful athletes like Suns players Steve Nash and Grant Hill, would have you believe. From the viewpoint of their gated communities, sure, the new immigration law might look like "an injustice" in Hill's eyes, and like "racism" to Nash.

But people are dying in Phoenix. They are being yanked from their homes on a daily basis and tortured, mutilated, killed. Why? Because there are some bad people in Phoenix. Not the legal citizens of Phoenix, no. I don't mean them. I mean the illegals. Not all of them or even most of them, obviously, but by and large illegal immigrants are responsible, according to police, for most of the home invasions and kidnappings and tortures.

Usually they are the kidnapper and the kidnapped, but not always, so don't fool yourself into thinking this kidnapping crisis doesn't affect the legal, law-abiding members of the greater Phoenix community. Not long ago a 13-year-old girl in Avondale, Ariz., was pulled from her neighborhood at gunpoint by kidnappers who thought she was related to a drug thief. When the kidnappers called her home a few hours later to demand the ransom, a police officer answered and convinced them that they had the wrong girl. She was let go. That story, horrific as it is, ended relatively well.

They don't all end well.

This is not a black-and-white issue, is my point. Am I picking a side? Sort of. But I'm not trying to convince you that my side is right, because I'm not sure my side is right. Some things, though, I know. I know that property values in Arizona are dropping faster than almost anywhere else in this country. And I know that Arizona has massive crime issues, particularly of the drug-and-violence variety. In recent years its murder rate has been two and even three times the national average, and police blame the disproportionate nature of those numbers on the influx of illegal immigrants.

At the same time, illegal immigrants are not, by definition, violent. It's a crapshoot, from person to person, which is why this issue is so damn murky. Not even a professional screamer like me can pick a side and start screaming. Not with confidence. So in lieu of that, I would rather calmly win you over to the idea that this issue isn't nearly as simple to grasp as people like Jackson or Sharpton or Nash or Hill or Vecsey or anyone -- on either side -- would try to tell you.

But I will say this: Why boycott the Diamondbacks? Because their owner contributed money years ago to the campaigns of state lawmakers, and because those state lawmakers later crafted this law? That's too simplistic. It implies you know the law better than the media, who incorrectly make Arizona out to be a Gestapo state, and it implies you also know the intent of the Diamondbacks' owner. And it suggests you're accusing the Diamondbacks of being anti-immigrant at best, xenophobic at worst. Yet the Diamondbacks' roster includes three players born in Venezuela, three in the Dominican Republic, one in Mexico and one in Germany. Boycott those guys? Why would you do that?

And I'll say this: Move the 2011 All-Star Game out of Arizona? That seems rather drastic considering our entire country is split right down the middle over that immigration law, according to polls, and that residents of Arizona are similarly split. One in three white people in Arizona oppose this law. One in five Hispanics favor it. Read those two sentences again, and then tell me this issue is simple.

Is there the possibility of racial profiling in Arizona, where police with "reasonable suspicion" can ask for verification that a person isn't an illegal immigrant? Sure there is. Police aren't looking for thieves or drug dealers, who by definition could be anyone. They're looking for illegal immigrants. If you can remove the issue of "race" from the search for "illegal immigrants," please tell me how to do that. Until someone figures it out, I'm inclined to let the police of Arizona do their job.

And I'm convinced we should let the Arizona Diamondbacks do theirs.


Gregg Doyel is a columnist for CBSSports.com. He covered the ACC for the Charlotte Observer, the Marlins for the Miami Herald, and Brooksville (Fla.) Hernando for the Tampa Tribune. More importantly, he is 4-0 as an amateur boxer, with three knockouts. Follow Gregg Doyel on Twitter.
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