Feathered Bastard

Paul Rodriguez Cancels Arizona Comedy Show in Protest Over SB 1070, and Denver Public Schools District Signs On To Boycott (w/Update: Rodriguez Weenies Out)

Update May 1, 2010: Rodriguez has apparently weenied out of his "boycott" issuing a statement that he'll be doing the comedy show at Wild Horse Pass, but he'll be donating the proceeds from his performance to LULAC, the League of United Latin American Citizens.

At this point, I wish Rodriguez had just kept his mouth shut. What's the point of calling off a show in protest, talking to the media about it, then reversing yourself 24 hours later?

Kudos to LULAC for scoring the dough, but let's be honest, the effect of a celebrity -- albeit a minor one -- joining the Arizona boycott would've been more important to "the cause" than LULAC making bank off of Rodriguez's misstep.

The full statement from LULAC and Rodriguez is below.*** I've got some news for Rodriguez and others with spines of jelly: Talk is cheap. If you want this "boycott" to work, you'll have to stick to it and not roll the first chance you get. Rodriguez, you are a huge disappointment.

Comedian Paul Rodriguez, one of the "Latin Kings of Comedy," has canceled his upcoming May 1 show at Chandler's Wild Horse Pass Casino, partly in protest over Arizona's new pro-racial profiling immigration law.

Rodriguez told me this morning that he's already received e-mailed death threats over his stance, but he had a message for those sending them.

"For those e-mailing me threats, you're wasting your time," he stated. "I have many other things to be afraid of. After two divorces, I'm not easily frightened."

And for those who had already purchased tickets to the show, he offered his apologies.

"This is not something that I take lightly," he explained. "My career's not in the best of shape, and I really can't afford to do that. But I have to take that stand."

Rodriguez emphasized that he was opposed to illegal immigration and that he had read the law in its entirety. He said that he felt provisions allowing police to check the immigration status of people suspected of being in the U.S. unlawfully were too broad and would lead to racial profiling.

"Once a person has committed a crime, I have no problems [with the police] investigating whether he's a citizen or not and then deporting [him]," he said. "I have no problems with that whatsoever. But in my opinion this is throwing the baby out with the bathwater. It would make everyone of brown skin a suspect."

He added, "It would force me to carry my citizenship papers with me. I'm not for that. I think it's a slippery slope."

Rodriguez's decision, which he said he made because of the new law and because of another conflict he did not specify, is just the latest move in an ever-widening boycott of Arizona over the law. 

A convention of immigration lawyers scheduled for Phoenix was recently canceled. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom has implemented a ban on city employees traveling to Arizona on official business. And members of both the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and Los Angeles City Council are agitating for their cities to join a boycott.

Just today, the Denver Public Schools District announced "a ban on all work-related travel to Arizona stemming from the state's new identity-document law." A statement from the Denver schools district said that it was "forming a Citizens Advisory Committee to consider further measures."

Additionally, a boycott of the Arizona Diamondbacks' away games is being organized as part of the national effort. The idea for a boycott was first proposed last week by Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva. Grijalva has repeated the call for a boycott despite threats phoned in to his Tucson office.

Rodriguez said he believes the boycott will spread to include others in the entertainment field.

"I think it will," he said. "Because you don't want your friends and your own family saying that in their hour of need, you turned your back. And I'm not turning my back on anyone in Arizona. I'm just simply taking a stand."

Interestingly, Rodriguez, 55, was brought to this country from Sinaloa, Mexico when he was only three and a-half by his parents, who were agricultural workers. 

"I'm a naturalized citizen," he told me. "I was drafted and I served active service four years and three years reserve in the Air Force during the Vietnam Era. I didn't [leave] to go to Canada or Mexico."

In fact, Rodriguez observed that having an opinion and acting on it are part of the American way.

"Isn't this a sacred right we hold here in America," he asked, "the right to believe in whatever we want to believe, whether we're right or wrong? I wouldn't threaten [others] or do any such thing. There's room for debate. We can talk about [the issue]."

***Statement from LULAC and Paul Rodriguez:

April 30, 2010

Contact: Lizette Jenness Olmos, (202) 365-4553 mobile
Lakeitcha Thomas, [email protected] 

Press Release

Net Proceeds Will Go to LULAC to fight anti-immigrant bill

Washington, DC -LULAC National President Rosa Rosales made the following statement today in regards to Actor and Comedian Paul Rodriguez generous contribution to LULAC: 

"We are very elated and appreciative to entertainer Paul Rodriguez for making this important donation. This will go a long way to making sure that Latino rights are protected. He understands the needs of the Latino community and the urgency for LULAC to fight this awful Arizona case in the courts. We thank him from the bottom of our hearts. Ya Basta! Enough is Enough!" 

Rodriguez noted: "After considerable deliberation, and with the support of the Gila River Indian Community and LULAC, I have decided to move forward with my show and donate the proceeds from my performance to LULAC. With the understanding that the Wild Horse Casino is part of the Gila River Indian Community, which is a Sovereign Nation, we believe this will be the best course of action. By cancelling the show, it would have instead hurt the Gila River Community and we would have gained nothing in our fight against this law. Now, the proceeds from my show will go to help LULAC, the largest Latino Civil Rights and Advocacy group in the United States, in its fight to reverse this unjust law. This fight undoubtedly will be costly. I urge my fellow performers and anyone who feels this law must not stand, to donate whatever they can to LULAC. Together, we can make a difference." 

Paul Rodriguez will be performing tomorrow at 8 p.m. at the Wild Horse Pass Hotel & Casino above the Gila River Indian Community which is on tribal land. 

About Paul Rodriguez: In addition to making millions of people laugh all over the world for over two decades, Rodriguez was voted one of the most influential Hispanics in America and awarded the prestigious Ruben Salazar Award by the National Council of LaRaza (NCLR). Throughout his career Rodriguez has remained involved with various charitable, civic and educational organizations including the Hispanic Scholarship Fund, Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, and currently serves as the Chairman of the California Latino Water Coalition. Rodriguez also serves on many prestigious Boards including the California Film Commission and he was recently appointed to the California Water Commission.

As an actor and comedian, Paul Rodriguez's illustrious career includes starring roles and featured appearances in over 40 films and countless television series' and comedy specials, including "Cats and Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore," "Beverly Hills Chihuahua," "Ali," "Rat Race," "The World's Fastest Indian," "Tortilla Soup" and "Bloodwork" - among others. As an accomplished writer, director and producer for television, motion pictures and feature shows, Rodriguez has many hit projects to his credits including numerous HBO and Comedy Central. Specials including his latest Comedy Central special and DVD "Comedy Rehab" and the comedy concert film "The Original Latin Kings of Comedy," for which he both starred in and executive produced as well as the film "A Million to Juan," which he also wrote and directed. 

The League of United Latin American Citizens, the oldest and largest Hispanic membership organization in the country, advances the economic conditions, educational attainment, political influence, health, housing and civil rights of Hispanic Americans through community-based programs operating at more than 700 LULAC councils nationwide. 

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons