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MLB, Selig should take Arizona stand

When a host of individuals and organizations called for Major League Baseball's 2011 All-Star Game to be moved from Phoenix in protest of Arizona's new racial profiling law, MLB commissioner Bud Selig flubbed his response.

Petitioned by a United States senator, a member of the House of Representatives, and dozens of civil rights, labor, pro-immigrant, and Latino groups, including my organization, the National Council of La Raza, Selig sidestepped the issue and instead talked about baseball's record on diversity. Whether he was being overly defensive, tried to change the subject, didn't understand the question, or was just plain nonresponsive, Selig's refusal to answer a direct question on the issue is a deep disappointment to Latino baseball fans and the Latino community throughout the nation.

To clear things up for Mr. Selig, the call for moving the All-Star game is not an attack on Major League Baseball or some kind of threat. Proponents of the move are instead urging MLB to stand up for its players, its front office personnel and its fans who have been singled out and targeted for abuse and harassment by the state of Arizona thanks to its new law, SB 1070, which allows police to stop anyone they "reasonably suspect" of being undocumented. What is happening in Arizona is not a debate over how to best deal with a broken immigration system; it is a violation of our civil rights and our most fundamental values as Americans.

The Major League Baseball Players Association understands that. That's why it quickly issued a statement in opposition to SB 1070. Padres first baseman and perennial All-Star Adrian Gonzalez and White Sox Manager Ozzie Guillen have already said they will not play in Phoenix next year.

We are not asking MLB to weigh in on America's immigration policy; we are asking the league to take a stand against bigotry and intolerance. Selig should stand up for the hundreds of players who form the backbone of today's game but whose last names and appearances put them at risk of being stopped by law enforcement every time they happen to play the Diamondbacks at Chase Field. He should stand up for the millions of Latino fans who fervently support the teams that make up the league.

This is neither unusual nor unprecedented. The NCAA does not allow postseason events -- such as the wildly popular Final Four -- in states that fly the Confederate flag. The NFL tangled with Arizona in the early 1990s over its refusal to recognize Martin Luther King Jr. Day and pulled the 1993 Super Bowl from Tempe. Those organizations took such steps in defense of their players and all other African-Americans involved in the NCAA and NFL, showing what they stood for at their core despite the fact that there was no direct threat to their safety. SB 1070 is a direct threat, and that argues for Selig and MLB to take action both to protect their players and personnel and to preserve the integrity of the game.

Quibbles aside, Latinos in baseball are considerably better off today than when Selig took over as commissioner. But that is minor league ball compared to this decision. Make the right play, commissioner. Move the game.

Janet Murguia is the president and CEO of the National Council of La Raza.

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