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Politics and Sports Should Stay in Neutral Corners

Posted on May 03, 2010 by Don Spieles

Padres catcher Yorvit Torrealba has weighed in on Arizona's proposed immigration law.

A new Arizona law being proposed that would require all individuals suspected of immigration violations to produce identification has been garnering much attention in the last few weeks. A lot of that attention has been from Major League Baseball, more specifically the Players Association and its members. It isn’t as though another reminder was needed of why politics and sports should remain separate was necessary, with the not so distant memories of steroid hearing before congress and threats of the same over tobacco use. Yet, here is the issue of immigration, adding a negative weight to baseball’s buoyancy, meant to help us float happily through the summer.

Immigration is certainly a polarizing issue, more so in areas such as Arizona where its proximity to Mexico make the issue extremely relevant. As such, while this proposed law seems sort of like a non-issue to the outsider: You have to show identification when the police stop you? Well, sure. Don’t we all? (Also, the law only applies to non-citizens. If you are a US citizen, all you must do is assert so. Lying about such is another, Federal charge.) For the residents of the area and for MLB players, especially Hispanic individuals, the legislation is anything but simple or appropriate.

If you click on a link to read articles at your favorite sports news site, you’re probably looking for scores, statistics, race results, and so on. Chances are that readers who are interested in the immigration debate are heading to sites like CNN or MSNBC to find information. Lately, though, if you read baseball news, you have had a steady diet of your favorite fare, peppered with numerous mentions of this Arizona bill.

Players like Venezuelan born Yorvit Torrealba, catcher for the San Diego Padres, was quoted in the San Diego Union-Tribune, “Why do I want to go play in a place where every time I go to a restaurant and they don’t understand what I’m trying to order, they’re going to ask me for ID first? That’s bull.” It’s not clear what this proposed law has to do with menus in restaurants or the wait staff – work visa is a legitimate form of identification – but when you consider the fact that in 2008 Arizona’s population was over 30% Hispanic (double the national average), Yorvit should be able to find restaurants with Spanish menus and staff.

Torrealba’s comments are indicative of why we don’t go to ESPN for political news. His comment is obviously based on an overarching view that immigration laws are unfair. Never mind that the laws only deal with those individuals here illegally, the details don’t matter. At least they don’t seem to when you talk to folks whose time is (and should be) occupied with other pursuits.

The Players Association is involved as they are whenever there is anything with a perception of affect on its members. Some players are reportedly considering boycotting the Arizona Fall League as a form of protest.   There is a push for Bud Selig to weigh in, to add an official position for Major League Baseball to the mix. All three should keep their figurative noses out of things. This law affects no MLB players directly because they are all here legally.

There are folks who really enjoy heated debates about issues like immigration, abortion, same-sex marriage, and so on. There are others who avoid them like the plague and focus instead on less stressful pursuits like sports. As much as taxpayers would like their senators to spend their time on something better than whether baseball players chew tobacco, so would sports fans be happier if the athletes, teams, and leagues would focus all their considerable energy on their respective sports and stay out of the political arena.

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