Thursday, April 29, 2010


Some of us are baseball fans. Me, for example. It's time to boycott the Arizona Diamondbacks!
The following is from Edge of Sports.

No One is Illegal: Boycott the Arizona Diamondbacks

Gonna find a way
Make the state pay

Lookin’ for the day

Hard as it seems

This ain’t no damn dream

Gotta know what I mean

It’s team against team
—Public Enemy, By the Time I Get to Arizona

This will be the last column I write about the Arizona Diamondbacks in the foreseeable future. For me, they do not exist. They will continue to not exist in my mind as long as the horribly named “Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act” remains law in Arizona. It's a law that has brought echoes of apartheid to the state.

One Democratic lawmaker has said that it has made Arizona a “laughingstock” but it’s difficult to find an ounce of humor in this kind of venal legislation. The law makes it a crime to walk the streets without clutching your passport, green card, visa, or state I.D. It not only empowers but absolutely requires cops to demand paperwork if they so much as suspect a person of being undocumented. A citizen can, in fact, sue any police officer they see not harassing suspected immigrants. The bill would also make it a class one misdemeanor for anyone to “pick up passengers for work” if their vehicle blocks traffic. And it makes a second violation of any aspect of the law a felony.

In response, Representative Raul Grijalva, who’s from Arizona itself, has called for a national boycott against the state, saying, “Do not vacation and or retire there.” He got so many hateful threats this week that he had to close his Arizona offices at noon on Friday.

Many of us aren’t in either the imminent vacation or retirement mode. We do, however, live in baseball cities where the Arizona Diamondbacks comes to play.

When they arrive in my hometown in D.C., my back will be turned, and my television will be off. This is not merely because they happen to be the team from Arizona. The D-backs organization is a primary funder of the state Republican Party, which has been driving the measure through the legislature.

As the official Arizona Diamondbacks boycott call states, “In 2010, the National Republican Senatorial Committee’s third highest Contributor was the [executives of the] Arizona Diamondbacks, who gave $121,600; furthermore, they also contributed $129,500, which ranked as the eighteenth highest contribution to the Republican Party Committee.” The team’s big boss, Ken Kendrick, and his family members, E. G. Kendrick Sr. and Randy Kendrick, made contributions to the Republicans totaling a staggering $1,023,527. The Kendricks follow in the footsteps of team founder and former owner Jerry Colangelo. Colangelo, along with other baseball executives and ex-players, launched a group called Battin’ 1000: a national campaign that uses baseball memorabilia to raise funds for a Campus for Life, the largest anti-choice student network in the country. Colangelo was also deputy chair of Bush/Cheney 2004 in Arizona, and his deep pockets created what was called the Presidential Prayer Team—a private evangelical group that claims to have signed up more than 1 million people to drop to their knees and pray daily for Bush.

Under Colangelo, John McCain also owned a piece of the team. The former maverick said before the bill’s passage that he “understood” why it was being passed because “the drivers of cars with illegals in it [that] are intentionally causing accidents on the freeway.”

This is who the Arizona Diamondback executives are. This is the tradition they stand in.

The Diamondbacks’ owners have every right to their politics, and if we policed the political proclivities of every owner’s box there might not be anyone left to root for (except for the Green Bay Packers, who don’t have an owner’s box). But this is different. The law is an open invitation to racial profiling and harassment. The boycott call is coming from inside the state.

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 Guitterez, 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.

[Dave Zirin is the author of the forthcoming “Bad Sports: How Owners are Ruining the Games we Love” (Scribner) Receive his column every week by emailing Contact him at]

To Catch a Fire: Diamondback Protests Take Off

This weekend in Chicago. May 3-6 in Houston. May 14-16 in Atlanta. May 17-18 in Florida. May 25-27 in Colorado. May 28-30 in San Francisco. And that’s just May. These are the road game locations for the Arizona Diamondbacks over the next month. These are also places where protests have been called in opposition to Arizona’s racist anti-immigrant SB 1070 law, which has been criticized by everyone from Barack Obama to Karl Rove. The D-backs owner Ken Kendrick is a massive financial supporter of Arizona’s state Republican Party and that makes his team, whether he likes it or not, the SB 1070 Traveling Roadshow.

And make no mistake about it: the idea of protesting the Diamondbacks wherever they play is catching fire. It nationalizes an issue many on the anti-immigrant right would rather see tucked away in the shadows of the Southwest. Yesterday’s protest at Coors Field in Denver, home of the Colorado Rockies, had 50 people rallying as people made their way inside. Season ticket holder Jim Bullington tried to give his Rockies vs. Diamondback tickets back to the team, but they refused to accept them. Bullington said to me, “Until I hear him say otherwise, I see this racist unconstitutional law as being supported financially by the owner of the D-backs. My friends and I in Denver won’t be going to these games.”

Today’s protest in Chicago, organized over Facebook, will have hundreds of people in attendance. Orlando Sepulveda of the Comité 10 de Marzo will be there, identifying the action as deeply connected to the national struggle for a humane immigration policy. “We pledged to boycott the D-backs because we are committed to defeating SB 1070. We are committed to defeat it because we can't allow racist law to exist, but also because defeating it will build strength and confidence in our movement to win an immigration reform with justice and dignity. Being this a national issue, if SB 1070 remains on the books, we will be in a position of weakness across the country.” One particularly smart element of today’s Chicago protest is that picketers are not asking fans to walk away from the stadium. Considering that most of us buy our tickets in advance anyways, this would be rather silly. Instead they are asking fans to take in signs calling for the repeal of SB 1070 to hold up during the game.

The protest-the-D-Backs strategy is also being backed by grassroots progressives. Los Angeles based Gustavo Arellano, syndicated columnist of “Ask a Mexican” and Pacifica radio host said to me, "Not only are conscious fans protesting retrograde owners who fund reprehensible measures, but they'll remind the general fan that sports owners—far from being the apolitical people the leagues portray them to be—are businessmen who usually use the profits they make off the wallets of unsuspecting fans to fund corrupt politicians and politics. Sure, these protests will intrude on the fan's experience, but that's the point. Sports don’t exist in a vacuum."

These actions are also getting broader support, which we will see in upcoming rallies at Sun Life Stadium, in Miami, home of the Florida Marlins. Kim Diehl, the Communications Director of SEIU Healthcare Florida, supports the protests because, as she said to me, “Yes, baseball is sacred, but human lives are more sacred. I’ll be protesting the D-Backs because the law that Arizona passed which allows police to approach anyone and ask for their papers is reminiscent of the horrors of slavery and apartheid.”

There are no illusions that these protests will somehow drastically damage Ken Kendrick’s profit margins. The team’s .500 play will do that on its own. The D-Backs also play in a stadium built with $250 million in tax dollars, so Kendrick won’t be applying for food stamps any time soon. But the protests do hold the potential to keep this issue out of the shadows and when it comes to SB 1070, the light of day is not kind. Bill Fletcher, a columnist for the Black Commentator and a long time union activist - as well as a born-again baseball fan - said to me, "We have to teach a basic lesson to the corporate racist right: their actions will not be ignored. Instead they will be met with a severe and serious response.”

[Dave Zirin is the author of the forthcoming “Bad Sports: How Owners are Ruining the Games we Love” (Scribner) Receive his column every week by emailing Contact him at]

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