NEW YORK - JULY 08: Immigrants rights supporters protest outside of Major League Baseball headquarters July 8, 2010 in New York City. The protesters are calling for Major League Baseball to move the 2011 All-Star Game out of Arizona in protest of the state's controversial immigration law. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)Getty
Arizona’s controversial immigration law grabbed headlines last spring, and Major League Baseball found itself caught up in the debate.
Though the 2011 All-Star Game set for Phoenix was more than a year away, that didn’t stop the calls – from fans, players, politicians – to boycott the state and move the event.
The MLB Players Association went as far as stepping into the politically charged arena, publicly opposing the law in April 2010 and urging its repeal or modification. In his statement, MLBPA executive director Michael Weiner didn't mince words.
“If the current law goes into effect," the statement read, "the MLBPA will consider additional steps necessary to protect the rights and interests of our members.”
After the uproar, the season – and pretty much everything else – carried on as usual.
This week’s All-Star Game in Arizona thrusts the issue into the spotlight again, but some of the momentum and passion that surrounded the issue 14 months ago has dissipated.
Protests outside the game are anticipated, but they are expected to be small in numbers. One immigrants-rights group will be passing out white ribbons and urging players to take part in the campaign.
Beyond that, the game and festivities likely will go on without incident.
No players are expected to boycott, the game is a sellout, and the event’s Fan Fest is expected to draw 100,000.
While Major League Baseball as an organization has received some criticism for its apparent lack of a stance on the immigration issue, it perhaps caught a break as the most controversial parts of the law, originally set to go into effect on July 29, 2010, have never been enacted because it's being challenged in federal courts.
Weiner pointed out the fact that the law had not gone into effect when he released a statement on the MLBPA’s behalf late last week.
“We stated [in April 2010] that, if SB 1070 as written went into effect, we would consider additional measures to protect the interests of our members,” he said, referring to the law. “SB 1070 is not in effect, and key portions of the law have been judged unlawful by the federal courts.
"Under all the circumstances, we have not asked players to refrain from participating in any All-Star activities,” he added.
Perhaps just as significantly, since last spring, a number of other states have passed similar legislation.
The worlds of baseball and immigration politics clashed earlier this season when Carlos Santana criticized Georgia’s law at the MLB Civil Rights game in Atlanta.
While moving or boycotting an exhibition game in protest of a law that never fully took effect would make a statement, it’s questionable what impact such a move would have, if any.
Still, Arizona remains a flashpoint when it comes to immigration. However, in the year since SB 1070’s passage, it has become clear this debate is not simply an Arizona issue, but part of a much larger national discussion.
As Weiner said in his recent statement, “Our nation continues to wrestle with serious issues regarding immigration, prejudice and the protection of individual liberties. Those matters will not be resolved at Chase Field, nor on any baseball diamond."
"Instead they will be addressed in Congress and in statehouses and in courts by those charged to find the right balance among the competing and sincerely held positions brought to the debate,” he added.
At a divisive time in our national history, any stance taken by professional baseball is highly unlikely to change immigration policy. While the competing factions on this issue will undoubtedly continue to battle it out under the national spotlight, MLB as an organization has decided to shy away from the attention and focus on competing on the field.
Maria Burns Ortiz is a freelance sports journalist, chair of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists' Sports Task Force, and a regular contributor to Fox News Latino. Follow her on Twitter: @BurnsOrtiz