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Players' Union to Arizona: modify or repeal your immigration law

Apr 30, 2010, 3:28 PM EDT

Arizona outline.jpgMLBPA head Michael Weiner has issued a statement opposing Arizona’s recently-passed SB 1070 immigration law:

“The recent passage by Arizona of a new immigration law could have a negative impact on hundreds of Major League players who are citizens of countries other than the United States.  These international players are very much a part of our national pastime and are important members of our Association.  Their contributions to our sport have been invaluable, and their exploits have been witnessed, enjoyed and applauded by millions of Americans.  All of them, as well as the Clubs for whom they play, have gone to great lengths to ensure full compliance with federal immigration law .

“The impact of the bill signed into law in Arizona last Friday is not limited to the players on one team.  The international players on the Diamondbacks work and, with their families, reside in Arizona from April through September or October.  In addition, during the season, hundreds of international players on opposing Major League teams travel to Arizona to play the Diamondbacks.  And, the spring training homes of half of the 30 Major League teams are now in Arizona.  All of these players, as well as their families, could be adversely affected, even though their presence in the United States is legal.   Each of them must be ready to prove, at any time, his identity and the legality of his being in Arizona to any state or local official with suspicion of his immigration status.  This law also may affect players who are U.S. citizens but are suspected by law enforcement of being of foreign descent.

“The Major League Baseball Players Association opposes this law as written.  We hope that the law is repealed or modified promptly.  If the current law goes into effect, the MLBPA will consider additional steps necessary to protect the rights and interests of our members.

“My statement reflects the institutional position of the Union.  It was arrived at after consultation with our members and after consideration of their various views on this controversial subject.”

Unlike the Super Bowl being moved out of Arizona 20 years ago due to the state’s failure to recognize Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as a holiday, I had felt that there was very little chance that baseball would move the 2011 All-Star Game as a result of the controversy surrounding the new immigration law.

For one thing, Major League Baseball is not the sort of institution that tends to take stands unless it feels that it is reflecting a clear majority sentiment. And while time and information may change people’s minds on this new law, unlike the situation with the King Holiday, it certainly can’t be said that there’s anything approaching a consensus on it. Many loathe it. Many love it. They all buy baseball tickets, so Bud Selig wasn’t likely to say anything if he could help it.

But if Baseball is afraid of wading into controversy, it’s even more loathe to be the source of controversy. And the player’s union taking a clear stand on this means that, unless baseball takes the same stand, controversy is inevitable.  The sort that comes from players threatening to boycott the All-Star Game, for example, which would be a totally different deal than random people protesting or boycotting a Cubs game.  Different in terms of the media coverage, and certainly different in terms of the effect (i.e. 20 players agreeing to not participate in the All-Star Game means a lot more than 20, 200 or even 20,000 people agreeing not to buy Dbacks merchandise).

In other words, this changes everything, at least from baseball’s perspective. And it certainly puts the ball in Bud Selig’s court.

  1. JE - Apr 30, 2010 at 3:39 PM

    Forgive me, Craig, but are not Arizona’s illegal immigration crisis and/or the law enacted in response the *sources* of controversy?

  2. Craig Calcaterra - Apr 30, 2010 at 3:42 PM

    Sure, but if there was a situation in which players were threatening to boycott the AS Game, etc., it would be treated like a new controversy. Or at least a sub-controversy, in which the actual law would be largely lost or ignored.

  3. Jonny5 - Apr 30, 2010 at 3:43 PM

    What part do they want changed? It almost sounds as if they just want a pass for ball players…….

  4. tadthebad - Apr 30, 2010 at 3:50 PM

    Is Weiner familiar with the federal law? Doesn’t the state law mirror the federal law, as requiring legal immigrants to possess such papers at all times? If he’s concerned about legal immigrants, then why? Simple inconvenience? I’m not knocking the man as he has clients to consider, it just seems like posturing at this point.

  5. Old Gator - Apr 30, 2010 at 3:51 PM

    It’s great to see a hot potato lobbed over to Bud Light’s side of the net. It would be greater to see some ballplayers lead with their chins and refuse to play the All Star Joke in Arizona until this “may I zee your papirs pliss” fascist bill is rescinded.
    There are more than enough ways to prevent illegal immigrants from becoming dead weight to the state’s economy – like really cracking down on those who hire them, and requiring solid proof of legal entry or citizenship from all who attempt to use public services. There’s no need to start waylaying legitimate residents and citizens of foreign descent off the streets; the Orwellian named “Patriot Act” was enough of an obscenity by itself.

  6. DSFC - Apr 30, 2010 at 3:55 PM

    I’m sure the DBack front office is just thrilled with this. The law may have a lot of people angry, but it’s pretty popular within Arizona. I’m not sure why Weiner felt compelled to make such a statement.

  7. ckaster - Apr 30, 2010 at 3:55 PM

    ** Each of them must be ready to prove, at any time, his identity and the legality of his being in Arizona to any state or local official with suspicion of his immigration status. **
    Uh, DUH Mr Weiner, In case you didn’t know…If you are here as a LEGAL Immigrant it is your responsibility to carry/have avail your documents saying such. That is Federal law/regulations. Since you say that ” All of them, as well as the Clubs for whom they play, have gone to great lengths to ensure full compliance with federal immigration law.” Then there should be no impact, unless you just like listening to the fear mongering coming from the left.

  8. Largebill - Apr 30, 2010 at 3:59 PM

    What a silly manufactured controversy. The Arizona law has no bearing on MLB players because they enter the country legally. The Arizona law solely deals with people in our country and their state illegally. It is none of Michael Weiner’s (or Bud Selig’s) business. I suppose next Weiner is going to whine if hears some places check ID’s before purchasing alcohol if you appear less than 30 years old. Younger players may be adversely targeted by such an aged biased law.

  9. Jamie - Apr 30, 2010 at 4:04 PM

    I think he’s more concerned about ballplayers getting pulled over and possibly arrested by Barney Fife on their way to the ballpark, just because they look a little browner than the average Scottsdale resident.

  10. YX - Apr 30, 2010 at 4:06 PM

    Well, this law sucks.
    I’m green card and I never carry it unless I’m traveling. It’s like asking all Americans to have driver’s license available all the time. Doesn’t seem to be a big deal until you realized that your jogging attires have no pocket.
    But hey, you could always chain it up and wear it around your neck like a collar.

  11. Craig Calcaterra - Apr 30, 2010 at 4:07 PM

    Weiner probably “felt the need” to wade into this because his job is to represent his union’s membership, many of whom, it can be surmised, aren’t happy with the law.
    I’ll plead relative ignorance on the politics and policy of this (one of the reasons I haven’t taken a strong position yet is because I’ll admit that I haven’t really studied it much). But I will say, the comment “this only affects illegal immigrants” simply isnt true. Sure, the law’s objective is to combat illegal immigration, but as with any law that deals with police stops/reasonable suspicion/probable cause/etc., the concern is that it will unduly burden those who are not doing anything illegal.
    I know people who oppose this law do so for various reasons, both political and legal, but I just think it’s objectively wrong to say that it has *no* impact on non-illegals. The question is whether the impact it does have (i.e. ID checks of US Citizens and legal immigrants who police mistakenly believe to be illegals) is too great for both the law and for public sentiment.

  12. - Apr 30, 2010 at 4:09 PM

    The law effects legal Americans because anyone reasonably suspected of being an illegal immigrant can be detained until they can prove they are an American citizen. Have you ever driven anywhere without your birth certificate or even your license? You can’t tell me that Mexican-Americans will not be more targeted than whites under this law. It in its very nature creates a system of guilty until proven innocent for all people who are reasonably suspected to be illegal immigrants and I have never seen a white guy suspected of being an illegal immigrant but I have seen many legal Latino-Americans suspected of being illegal.

  13. Simon DelMonte - Apr 30, 2010 at 4:10 PM

    Look for the NFL and NBA players unions to follow suit on this. Look for every union to follow suit. This is a much bigger story than just baseball players taking a stand.
    Or it could be, since this law sounds likely to die in the courts.
    Either way, I applaud the MLBPA taking a stand on behalf of its members.

  14. DSFC - Apr 30, 2010 at 4:11 PM

    And MLB’s place in a state’s politics is….what, exactly?

  15. YX - Apr 30, 2010 at 4:12 PM

    You say that has no bearing on MLB players. But this law allows police to go on the field in the middle of a game and check ID of every Latino looking player (not that they would do such a thing I’m sure), and lock up everyone who does not have his paperwork with him.

  16. Craig Calcaterra - Apr 30, 2010 at 4:15 PM

    MLB is a corporate citizen doing business in Arizona. It has every right to weigh in, or not weigh in, on political issues that affect it, it’s business or it’s employees at it’s choosing.
    My sense that MLB should and maybe must weigh in now is that it’s unionized employees have done so. Show me an example of a company that does not engage itself with the issues that concern its unionized employees, and I’ll show you a business that’s got some serious frickin’ labor problems in the offing.

  17. YX - Apr 30, 2010 at 4:22 PM

    It is never a good idea to set up laws that are easy to abuse and assuming none would abuse them.

  18. DSFC - Apr 30, 2010 at 4:26 PM

    Sure they have every right. They do, you do, I do, whoever. However, I think they might want to consider whether or not it’s a wise fight for them to pick, particularly as it concerns a pretty big chunk of the DBack fan base. I can’t argue the merits of the law with you, Craig – you’re an attorney, I’m not. But from a business standpoint, I don’t think this will neccessarily go well for MLB should they make it an issue. The resistance this could create seems to me something that could prove to have much more impact on the union’s membership than the probably slight at best impact this law would have. If anything, I’d think minor leaguers would have a lot more to worry about.
    And while I enjoy righteous outrage as much as the next fella, I wonder how many of you (not aiming this at Craig, just at the general audience) have ever lived in Arizona near the Mexican border? Do you have any idea what goes on there? It’s very easy to throw stones from somewhere far from the fray.

  19. The Common Man - Apr 30, 2010 at 4:26 PM

    Bravo, Weiner! (I never thought I’d be typing that sentence. Approrpriately, my reCaptcha is “limply the”)

  20. nfieldr - Apr 30, 2010 at 4:27 PM

    YX said:
    Well, this law sucks.
    I’m green card and I never carry it unless I’m traveling. It’s like asking all Americans to have driver’s license available all the time. Doesn’t seem to be a big deal until you realized that your jogging attires have no pocket.
    But hey, you could always chain it up and wear it around your neck like a collar.
    Sorry, Dude… bad argument. I DO carry my DL with me at all times. Most states have laws that require that you carry ID.

  21. Josh in DC - Apr 30, 2010 at 4:28 PM

    Circle me, boycott the all-star game.

  22. The Common Man - Apr 30, 2010 at 4:30 PM

    I’m pretty sure most Diamondback fans can be mad at Major League Baseball and still love their team. After all, the team’s owners are major backers of the law and Republican contributors. I wonder how they’ll feel when Gerardo Parra is detained on the way to the ballpark for leaving his papers in his other pants.

  23. BCTF - Apr 30, 2010 at 4:31 PM

    The law allows for police to check someone’s immigration status when they are arrested or attained for some other crime. It’s like when a policy officer pulls you over for speeding and checks you driving record. WTF is the big deal about this? It would be nice if the union boss would read the law before he starts a boycott.

  24. Bob Tufts - Apr 30, 2010 at 4:34 PM

    Craig – according to information that I have seen, foreign born players do not carry their documentation and the teams usually hold player’s passports and paperwork in a secure place.

  25. Largebill - Apr 30, 2010 at 4:35 PM

    Since the mid 1930’s non-citizens have had a requirement to carry their passport (if here on a visa) or green card if here as a temporary resident. This Arizona law does not change that requirement. So no change in your status.

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