Move the Game

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The fight over Arizona became a national story after voters rejected a statewide holiday at the ballot box in 1990. Reaction was swift. A tourism and entertainment boycott already in place suddenly gained widespread support. The National Football League decided to move Super Bowl XXVII from Arizona to Pasadena, California. In addition to the loss of the Super Bowl and its revenue stream, Arizona lost an estimated $350 million in convention revenue. In 1992, the state reconsidered the issue and this time the voters approved the holiday, making Arizona the first and only state to approve an MLK holiday at the ballot box.

The lesson appears to have been lost on the current residents of the state house in Phoenix. Pressure is mounting on Bud Selig, the commissioner of Major League Baseball, to yank the 2011 All Star Game away from Arizona if the recent immigration law isn’t repealed. Although Selig is currently refusing to budge, a growing number of players have publicly announced their intent to boycott if the game is played in Arizona. Latinos make up about 25% of the rosters of major league teams. Opponents of the law view the All Star Game as their best tool to exert influence on the state. At last week’s All Star Game, movethegame.com tried to present Selig with 100,000 signed petitions to move the game, but Selig refused to meet with the protestors or accept delivery of the petitions.

Hispanics make up the fastest growing market for Major League Baseball. If the movement to move the game continues to pick up steam, it’s hard to imagine that Selig will be able to keep politics away from America’s pastime for much longer. And if Arizona loses the All Star Game, other tourism losses could follow. In the early 90’s, the loss of revenue was significant enough to move public opinion on MLK’s birthday. Will it have an impact on SB 1070? Stay tuned!

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