Opponents of Arizona's new immigration law have stepped up the pressure on Commissioner Bud Selig to pull next year's All-Star game out of Phoenix, coinciding with preparations for Major League Baseball's annual game Tuesday in Anaheim, Calif.
A coalition of human rights groups, clergy, immigrant advocates MoveOn.org and labor unions called Move the Game presented Selig with a 100,000-signature petition today, urging him to steer clear of Arizona.
"We want to use the Arizona spotlight for the 2011 All-Star Game to highlight the great shame that Arizona brings on itself and on the entire country," said Roberto Lovato, one of Move the Game's organizers and co-founder of Presente.org, a group seeking the political empowerment of Latinos.
There are "grave concerns about Arizona's racist laws" from fans and players who want to attend the 2011 game, Lovato said. The law gives police broad powers to detain anybody they suspect is in the country illegally, which, critics have said, will lead to racial profiling and the harassment of Hispanics.
Selig has refused to say whether the league will move next summer's game. Indeed, he has said very little about the issue except telling reporters in May that Major League Baseball has a long record of minority hiring and played a key role in civil rights movement.
"We've done well. And we'll continue to do well," Selig said after an owners meeting May 13. "And I'm proud of what we've done socially, and I'll continue to be proud of it. That's the issue, and that's the answer."
For those behind the boycott, Selig's comments aren't enough.
"That's like saying that the league will be diverse in the Jim Crow era," Lovato said.
The Players Association has come out against the law.
The Department of Justice filed a lawsuit last week challenging the law, which takes effect July 29. In the suit, the Obama administration charges that immigration is under the purview of the federal government and that Arizona has overstepped its bounds.
Rep. Jose E. Serrano, D-N.Y.. was one of the first people to publicly call for a boycott of the game. The Bronx congressman told ABC News at the time that with so many Latino ballplayers -- in the major and minor leagues -- baseball "should make a statement that it will not hold its All-Star Game in a state that discriminates against" such a high percentage of its own people.
"I think that when people, states, localities make decisions this monumental, they should know the full consequence of that decision," he said.
The 2009 All-Star Game generated an estimated $60 million for St. Louis, according to the St. Louis Regional Chamber & Growth Association. New York's economy generated an estimated $150 million the year before, according to New York City's Economic Development Corp.
Arizona is also the spring training home of 15 Major League Baseball teams, including the Colorado Rockies, San Francisco Giants, Oakland Athletics, Chicago White Sox, Seattle Mariners and the Kansas City Royals.
Move the Game has been holding rallies across the country at away games of the Arizona Diamondbacks and Lovato is already talking about next season's spring training schedule.
The Arizona boycott goes beyond baseball. There was a push back in April for people to cancel vacations in the state and many in the already-struggling tourism industry expressed concern as big conferences started to pull out of Arizona.