MLB All-Star Game: Somos America's White Ribbon Campaign Goes Head-To-Head with Puente's Boycott Call

Immigrant-rights group Somos America wants players and fans to wear white ribbons in protest of SB 1070
Immigrant-rights group Somos America wants players and fans to wear white ribbons in protest of SB 1070

​​More than a year ago pro-immigrant organizations were demanding that the 2011 Major League Baseball All-Star Game be moved from Phoenix to punish Arizona for passing one of the harshest immigration laws in the nation.


Among those organizations was the Phoenix-based immigrant-rights coalition Somos America, but MLB did not heed activists' demands and the game is still scheduled for July 12 at Chase Field.

As a result, Somos has shifted gears, and is now asking all-star baseball players to wear a white ribbon to demonstrate opposition to Senate Bill 1070.

The group also wants fans going to the game to don the ribbons if they disagree with Arizona's infamous "papers-please" law, which is currently on hold in the federal courts.

To this end, Somos members will be passing out white ribbons at all-star-related events, from Friday till game day. 

By contrast, the local human-rights organization Puente is encouraging a boycott by fans and baseball players alike, and will be demonstrating while the game is taking place.

"We [do not] want people to forget that [SB 1070] is still an issue in Arizona," says Somos America member Leticia de la Vara of her group's so-called white ribbon campaign. 

Though white is often considered the color of surrender, de la Vara insists Somos' effort does not signal capitulation, and that it complements other campaigns, such as Puente's.

"It's not a surrender...just another tactic," she explains. "As many tactics as we can get out there to call attention to what is going on [in Arizona]... the better."

Puente member Raul Cordero says his organization respects Somos' campaign, but he complains that Somos is not putting enough pressure on the players to show a greater sacrifice. 

"A little white ribbon is not going to clean away the pain [caused by Arizona's immigration policies]," Cordero stated.

During last year's anti-1070 fervor, players like Boston Red Sox first-baseman Adrian Gonzalez said he would not participate in a Phoenix-hosted All-Star Game if he was chosen to be part of it. This, because of his disagreement with Arizona's harsh immigration statute. 

Gonzalez has been drafted to play in the game. Still, it seems unlikely that he will boycott it since he hasn't said anything recently denouncing the midsummer classic.

"If Gonzalez shows up to the game with a simple white ribbon it won't show any solidarity with the [immigrant] community," Cordero says. "He should [make] more of a sacrifice than wearing a ribbon."

It is not out of the ordinary for athletes to express their political views during sporting events, though some fans and observers disapprove of the practice.

For example, the Phoenix Suns came out against SB 1070 during a 2010 playoff game by wearing Los Suns jerseys. Supporters of the law denounced the Suns' action, while those against 1070 cheered it.

Perhaps the most historic example of athletes turning political occurred during the 1968 Mexico Olympics when Tommie Smith and John Carlos, gold and bronze medalists, bowed their heads and raised a right and left fist, respectively, in support of the African-American Civil Rights Movement.

Wearing a white ribbon seems like the least a sports figure could do these days to show solidarity with Arizona Latinos. 

But if Somos' campaign is a bust, 1070's supporters will crow victory, as both the effort to cancel the game and to protest 1070 with a mere ribbon will have failed.

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