To boycott, or not to boycott, products that have ‘Arizona’ in their name

Mike Riggs Contributor
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I’m no fan of Arizona’s draconian immigration law, but the idea of boycotting things that have to do with ‘Arizona’–iced tea made in Brooklyn, a French band named ‘Phoenix,’ business trips–strikes me as a short-sighted and ineffective method for protesting the mistreatment of immigrants. Take the boycott that single-payer advocates attempted when Whole Foods founder and CEO John Mackey wrote in the Wall Street Journal about a cheaper alternative to gov-run health care: shopping at Whole Foods.

Single Payer Action, led by Russell Mokhiber, organized boycotts/protests at stores in Washington, D.C., Austin, and New York. What happened on the dreaded day of? Pure idiot mystery: Left-wing professors made comparisons to Central America, the UFCW demanded that Mackey allow his employees to unionize (even though their wages and working conditions currently are–and were at the time–superior to those of employees at Safeway, which is unionized), and Mokhiber got caught up in a larger ideological battle that had nothing whatsoever to do with Mackey, and everything to do with his frustration that the U.S. isn’t Canada.

And who got lost in that boycott? Whole Foods employees, the so-called victims. Had Mokhiber been successful in stopping the flow of customers into Whole Foods stores–he was nowhere close–hourly employees likely would have been sent home until either Mokhiber or Mackey relented.

Now in response to Arizona’s new law, liberals are calling for a boycott of the Arizona Diamondbacks baseball team, which is owned by the Republican Kendrick family. In particular, one group of activists wanted to run scoreboard ads during the Cubs-Diamondbacks game that read, “Cubs Welcome Arizona Immigrant Players. Repeal SB-1070!”; “Cubs Welcome All Immigrants. Repeal AZ SB-1070!”; and, “Cubs Welcome D-Backs Please Repeal Arizona SB-1070!” (The Cubs declined.)

Over at the Nation, Dave Zirin expresses frustration that the managers of the Chicago Cubs refused to stick up for immigrants. Putting aside the fact that progressives went apeshit when CBS agreed to run the Focus on the Family/Tim Tebow ad during the Super Bowl, and that progressives like Tracy Clark-Flory–who welcomed Focus on the Family to spend money however they wanted–were an exception, what Zirin and the Center for New Community (the advocacy group who submitted the ads) really want is to create a charged political atmosphere at a large booze-fueled public event that is normally politics-free:

Chicago Cubs management leaves fans with one conclusion. The organization will be officially supporting the Kendrick family efforts to stay in the shadows and avoid accountability. Immigrant Rights activists in the Chicago area have no choice but to take to the streets in front of Wrigley Field and be heard. They should leaflet, they should picket, they should send out a million press releases, and they should bear witness.

As a First Amendment supremacist, I don’t think there’s any legal question that CNC has a right to picket the game. But it’s probably a waste of money: a bunch of lefties shoving fliers at Cubs fans is not going to cause the Arizona legislature to repeal a law that’s boosted the majority party’s approval ratings.

Zirin’s other reason for boycotting the team is that the Kendricks received a $250 million tax-payer-assist in building the Diamondbacks stadium, and that “Sports owners receiving millions in public subsidies can’t fund right wing politicians to do their bidding and then recede to the shadows”–to which I say, bullshit. Publicly subsidized stadiums are a problem no matter which “party” owns the team. They are a terrible investment every day of the week and a crime for which no amount of punishment–except maybe being immobilized in front of a grapefruit-hucking pitching machine–is enough. If the D-backs are worth protesting for receiving public funds, then so is the entire MLB.

Oh, and it probably helps to remember that while successful boycotts embarrass the higher ups, and perhaps dent their bottom line by a zero or two, the people who they actually *hurt* are the people who get sent home early because business is bad.

Lastly, it’s just sort of irritating to watch, read, or hear progressive threaten boycotts based not on a company’s treatment of its workers, but rather on the owner’s political connections. The boycotts never last–will Zirin return to ignoring the Diamondbacks if the bill is repealed? The Kendrick family will still be giving money to Republicans–and liberals are seldom consistent with who they punish (how many liberals are shopping at Whole Foods now that health care has passed, but despite the fact that Mackey never recanted and his stores still aren’t unionized?)

A great example of progressive ADHD: Richard Hayne owns Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie, two great stores that sell cool–if overpriced–clothes and kitsch. Hayne also gave money to former Sen. Rick Santorum and is allegedly a gay marriage opponent, yet most of my liberal friends have no problem shopping at his stores. I suspect they’ll have no problem watching Diamondbacks games in a month or two, either. So why not cut the crap and fight draconian immigration laws in a more sensible way?