Phoenix The Rev. Jesse Jackson is urging baseball’s All-Stars to speak out against the Arizona immigration law, saying they should follow the example set by Jackie Robinson when he broke the game’s color barrier more than a half-century ago.
The sport’s national spotlight returned this week to the Sonoran Desert for the first time since Luis Gonzalez’s ninth-inning single off Mariano Rivera won Game 7 of the 2001 World Series for the Diamondbacks, landing the All-Stars — those who didn’t drop out — in the hot debate over the law known as SB 1070.
Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig ignored calls by some to move today’s game.
“It’s obviously too late for them to withdraw from the scene,” Jackson said Monday during a telephone interview with the Associated Press. “I think they should play, and they should speak out, which would be of value.”
As players got ready to gather on the air-conditioned diamond under the Chase Field roof, most of them declined to discuss the law. Enacted last year, it requires immigrants to obtain or carry registration papers and calls for police, while enforcing other laws, to question people’s immigration status if there is a reasonable suspicion they’re in the country illegally.
Major provisions were blocked last July by U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton, a decision upheld in April in a 2-1 vote by the 9th U.S. Circuit court of Appeals. Gov. Jan Brewer intends to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the injunction.
Boston slugger David Ortiz was one of the few players willing to talk about the law.
“I’m an immigrant. I definitely would never agree with any treating of immigrants bad — the wrong way,” said Ortiz, who is from the Dominican Republic.
Still, he won’t get involved with protests.
“I’m not here for that,” Ortiz said.
Ortiz captained the AL team in Monday night’s Home Run Derby. Sharon Robinson, daughter of the late Jackie Robinson, was on the field before the event for a “Breaking Barriers” presentation.
More typical during player availabilities at the cactus-filled Arizona Biltmore grounds was the response from New York Mets outfielder Carlos Beltran, who will be the National League’s designated hitter.
“It’s something that doesn’t have to do anything with sport,” he said. “It’s something that affects a certain part of the population.”
Somos America, a Phoenix-based Hispanic civil rights group, asked fans, players and coaches to wear a white ribbon showing solidarity against the law.
“Baseball was on the cutting edge of changing the culture with the admission of Jackie Robinson to the game. It changed the American culture in fundamental ways beyond the baseball field,” Jackson said. “Some players or some players’ families could be disadvantaged or apprehended by that law in Arizona, so it’s very risky. I would hope now that they are there, they would at least speak out clearly that that law is in conflict with national law on immigration. States don’t set immigration policy.
“Baseball players cannot negotiate away their dignity. I’m glad Jackie Robinson spoke up for dignity beyond the baseball field, and I’d glad Ortiz has spoken up for dignity.”
Sixteen players picked as All-Stars dropped out: four are on the disabled list, Alex Rodriguez had knee surgery Monday, and Ryan Braun and Placido Polanco missed a half-dozen games or more heading into the break. Six pitchers were knocked off the rosters because they started for their clubs Sunday, and Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and David Price said their bodies needed the rest following minor injuries.
“I think it’s too bad that Jeter in particular is not here, because of what he accomplished over the weekend,” said Philadelphia Phillies chairman Bill Giles, referring to Jeter’s 3,000th hit Saturday. “I think it is a bit of a problem and baseball should study it.”
While the temperature outside Chase Field has been as high as 118 this month, an 8,000-ton cooling system keeps it in the 70s inside the ballpark.