Wild Pitch

by Norman Horowitz

Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig, while celebrating civil rights in Georgia, was speaking in Atlanta about the 2011 All-Star game in Arizona. The game is to honor, among others, the great musician Carlos Santana. He was to be the Latino stand-in, a smiling symbol of baseball’s diversity. And maybe, he would even play a song!

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I love it that Selig picked the wrong Latino. When Santana took the microphone, he said that he was representing all immigrants, and he added, “The people of Arizona, and the people of Atlanta, Georgia, you should be ashamed of yourselves.” (He was referring, of course, to the anti-illegal immigration bills passed by Arizona’s and Georgia’s governments.)

The cheers in the ball park quickly turned to boos. Yes, Carlos Santana was booed on Civil Rights Day in Atlanta for having the temerity to talk about — can you believe it? — civil rights.  

Santana held an impromptu press conference where he let loose with an improvised speech to rival one of his virtuoso guitar solos:

This law is not correct. It’s a cruel law; actually, This is about fear. Stop shucking and jiving. People are afraid we’re going to steal your job. No we aren’t. You’re not going to change sheets and clean toilets. I would invite all Latin people to do nothing for about two weeks so you can see who really, really is running the economy. Who cleans the sheets? Who cleans the toilets? Who babysits? I am here to give voice to the invisible.

Most people at this point they are either afraid to really say what needs to be said, this is the United States the land of the free. If people want the immigration law to keep passing in every state then everybody should get out and just leave the American Indians here. This is about civil rights.

During all of this drama, Bud Selig slipped out of a stadium backdoor in the 5th inning. Selig is an expert at “ducking” when the issues of immigration, civil rights, and Major League Baseball collide.

Selig should listen to Santana. While it is now too late to move the 2011 All-Star Game out of Arizona, he needs to say and do something. The sport of Jackie Robinson, Roberto Clemente, and Curt Flood has an obligation to stand for the rights of minorities.

The Major League Baseball Players Association condemned the law, yet all Selig could muster was a weak defense of baseball’s minority hiring record:

Apparently all the people around and in minority communities think we’re doing OK. That’s the issue, and that’s the answer. I told the clubs today: “Be proud of what we’ve done.” They are. We should. And that’s our answer. We control our own fate, and we’ve done very well.

I understand when the powerless don’t speak out about society’s injustices, but the powerful like Selig and the owners have an obligation to condemn racism when it’s thrust upon them.

Selig, given the opportunity to speak about racial and ethnic injustice, never even came up to the plate. How sad.

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