The campaign to move the 2011 All-Star Game out of Phoenix to protest Arizona's immigration law heated up this week, with some of baseball's superstars threatening to sit it out and demonstrators trying to deliver thousands of petitions to Commissioner Bud Selig.
The increased pressure coincided with this year's All-Star Game, which was to be played Tuesday night in Anaheim.
Selig has given no indication that he plans to consent to demands to change the 2011 game's location. But with Arizona's law just weeks from going into effect, protesters are using this year's game as the prime venue for pressing their case.
Roberto Lovato, whose group Presente.org launched the MoveTheGame.org website, said activists were kicked out by security when they tried to deliver 110,000 petitions to Selig at the Anaheim Marriott on Monday.
"Major League Baseball didn't even want to send a representative to talk to us," Lovato said. But he said his organizers would be outside Tuesday night's game "in force," protesting and handing out literature.
"Why expose Major League baseball fans to being possibly racially profiled?" he said.
At the same time, several Major League players have gone on record either in opposition to the bill or in favor of a 2011 All-Star Game boycott. The strongest statement came from Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Yovani Gallardo, a native of Mexico, who was quoted by the Arizona Republic as saying: "If the game is in Arizona, I will totally boycott." In the same article, Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Jose Valverde, a native of the Dominican Republic, called the law "the stupidest thing you can ever have."
According to the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, 27 percent of MLB players are Latino.
But Major League Baseball is hardly speaking with one voice on the issue.
St. Louis Cardinals Manager Tony La Russa last month said he's a "supporter" of Arizona's immigration law and welcomed local Tea Partiers who at the time were inside the Cardinals stadium to show Arizona solidarity -- even though his team was facing off that night against the Diamondbacks.
"I'm actually a supporter of what Arizona's doing. ... The national government doesn't fix your problem, and you've got a problem, they've got to take care of it themselves," said La Russa, who was born in Tampa, Fla.
The petition passed around by MoveTheGame.org says that Arizona should not benefit financially from the 2011 All-Star Game as long as the immigration law stays in place.
"Arizona doesn't deserve to profit from discrimination and to host one of the great annual sporting events with your consent. Do what's best for baseball and move the 2011 All-Star Game unless Arizona changes its harmful and hateful immigration law," the petition says.
But Arizona lawmakers and business groups have complained that these campaigns and boycotts are just hurting people who had nothing to do with the law being passed. Plus they deny charges of racial profiling.
The Obama administration drew even more backlash from the state last week after the Justice Department filed a federal lawsuit against Arizona challenging the immigration law and seeking to stop it from taking effect.
The law makes illegal immigration a state crime and would require local police to check the immigration status of anyone they suspect of being an illegal immigrant provided they don't stop them for that reason alone.