Baseball All-Star Game Hit With Boycott Pitch

Past Arizona Sports Boycotts

This is not the first time Arizona has faced the loss of a major sporting event over its racial policies.

When Arizona stopped recognizing Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1987, various groups organized boycotts of the state. Pressure eventually fell on the NFL, which in 1991 pulled the 1993 Super Bowl from Phoenix. Voters approved the holiday in 1992 and Tempe, Ariz., was awarded the 1996 Super Bowl.

The power of that event is not lost on today's leaders.

Serrano called the Super Bowl decision "monumental" in getting the state to reverse its position.

"The NFL and the players and the union were smart enough and committed enough to know that this was important," he said.

The Rev. Warren H. Stewart Sr., who was one of the leaders behind the Super Bowl protests, said, "It was successful because there was such a national and international outrage to the offense to the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King."

Supporters of the holiday had been trying to engage the business community but heard nothing back at first, Stewart said.

"It wasn't until the NFL said, "If you all don't get this straight, we're not coming,'" he said. "Before that time, none of them would return our calls."

What advice does Stewart have for today's organizers?

Hit them where it hurts, he said, in the wallet.

"The business people did not get involved for the moral reason of the holiday," Stewart said. "They only got involved after they started to lose money. They make very few moral decisions. Their decisions are made with dollars and cents."

The beauty about sports is that it can get people with different agendas to work toward the same goal.

"At first, all they wanted was the Super Bowl," Stewart said of the business leaders. "It really wasn't about Martin Luther King. He was the means to the end. For us, he was the end and the boycott was the means. Totally opposite."

"We looked at the Super Bowl in '93 as a convention, the world's largest convention," added Art Mobley, a longtime broadcaster in Phoenix who helped organize the fight.

Major League Baseball's pulling out of Arizona wouldn't necessarily be enough to change the law, Stewart said. He said he doubts that Gov. Jan Brewer or the Republican-controlled legislature will rescind it easily.

"She would not do it before the election because she's become a national figure," Stewart said of the governor. "This is bringing up the race issue like never before."

Stewart said the King holiday was about symbolism. Today's fight is all about substance and deserves an equally strong, if not stronger, campaign, he said.

"This is a substantive, human rights issue," he said. "It deals with justice, it deals with family, it deals with poverty, it deals with education, it deals with the economy."

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