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MLB: Fallout from immigration law tars Arizona Diamondbacks

April 29, 2010

The Arizona Diamondbacks are like one of those fans in the lower deck at Chase Field who gets struck by a foul ball during a game. They didn’t see it coming.

Today at Chicago’s Wrigley Field and in just about every city the team visits, there is expected to be a protest outside the stadium against Arizona’s new immigration-enforcement law, Senate Bill 1070.

One of the people organizing and encouraging such protests is Tony Herrera, the Arizona representative for a national movement (it has a Facebook page) called “Boycott Arizona 2010.”

“This team is an ambassador for Arizona,” Herrera told me. “And the owner, Mr. (Ken) Kendrick, is a big supporter of Republican politics. This new law was a Republican bill. Until the law is changed, there should be protests.”

The Diamondbacks appear to have been caught off guard by such comments, even though it is well known that Managing General Partner Ken Kendrick and his family are major contributors to the Republican Party.

The team’s vice president for communications, Shaun Rachau, told me that the organization doesn’t believe that targeting the team is fair. He forwarded me the following statement:

“Although D-backs’ Managing General Partner Ken Kendrick has donated to Republican political candidates in the past, the organization has communicated to Boycott Arizona 2010 leader Tony Herrera that Kendrick personally opposes (Senate) Bill 1070. The team also explained that Kendrick is one of nearly 75 owners of the D-backs and none of his, nor do the other owners’, personal contributions reflect organizational preferences. The D-backs have never supported (Senate) Bill 1070, nor has the team ever taken a political stance or position on any legislation.”

To which you might ask, why not?

As one Internet blogger noted, “If the owners of the Diamondbacks want to underwrite an ugly edge of bigotry, we should raise our collective sporting fists against them. A boycott is also an expression of solidarity with Diamondback players such as Juan Gutierrez, Gerardo Parra, and Rodrigo Lopez. They shouldn’t be put in a position where they’re cheered on the playing field and then asked for their papers when the uniform comes off.”

Latino players make up a significant part of just about every major-league roster. Likewise, there are many, many Latino baseball fans.

Exactly how WOULD the team, the fans and the players react if a baseball star happened to be singled out and asked to produce his “papers” while in Arizona?

“There’s a protest we’re expecting outside of Wrigley,” the D-Backs’ Rachau said. “We’re unique in that we’re an Arizona company that travels around the country and plays baseball games. So any time we come to a large market the people in that city can put their focus on us. I understand that they’re not pointing at the team but saying that you represent Arizona.”

For Herrera, it’s a little more than that.

“The fact that Kendrick has supported the Republican agenda is significant to us,” he said. “We’re getting a lot of response from across the country. We’re asking for a meeting (with the team) on May 7 with people who are flying in from across the country. We want to talk to the team, but, you know, they do represent Arizona.”

We all feel bad for the fan who gets beaned by a foul ball. Like that fan, the Diamondbacks didn’t think they were in the game.

But they were spectators in the stadium, like every other business in Arizona. At Chase Field, there are dozens of signs warning fans to look out for “flying objects” from the field.

If the team had been paying attention, it would have seen this ball coming.

The outrage over Arizona’s new immigration law has led to demonstrations and boycotts throughout the country, and today those opposed to the law will gather at Wrigley Field.

As of Thursday morning, 790 people said they planned to attend a protest outside of Wrigley Field as the Chicago Cubs take on the Arizona Diamondbacks Thursday afternoon, according to a Facebook event page for the protest.

“We are going to give the Arizona Diamondbacks a message to send back home,” the event’s organizers wrote on the page.

The demonstrators plan on bringing posters and marching, as well as handing out fliers to baseball fans that detail their opposition to the new law, according to the page. The group also asks anyone attending the game to wave posters condemning the law.

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