NEW YORK (AP) — Baseball commissioner Bud Selig is ignoring calls to move next year’s All-Star game from Phoenix because of Arizona’s new immigration law.
Asked about such demands at a news conference Thursday following an owners meeting, he responded with a defense of baseball’s minority hiring record.
“Apparently all the people around and in minority communities think we’re doing OK. That’s the issue, and that’s the answer,” he said. “I told the clubs today: ‘Be proud of what we’ve done.’ They are. We should. And that’s our answer. We control our own fate, and we’ve done very well.”
Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said he wouldn’t participate in next year’s All-Star game if it remains in Arizona because of the law, which empowers police to determine a person’s immigration status. The Major League Baseball Players Association condemned the law and Rep. Jose Serrano, a New York Democrat whose district includes Yankee Stadium, sent Selig a letter asking him to move the game.
Selig cited sports sociologist Richard Lapchick, whose annual report from the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports last month gave baseball an A for race and a B for gender hiring. Selig also referenced a lifetime achievement award he received in March from the Jackie Robinson Foundation.
“We’re a social institution. We have done everything we should do — should do, our responsibility,” he said. “Privilege to do it. Don’t want any pats on the back, and we’ll continue to do it.”
Leaders of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Greater Phoenix Economic Council, the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and 10 other groups on Thursday released a letter in which they ask Selig to not take a position against the state by moving the game.
The letter says a relocation would cost jobs for “innocent citizens, including our Hispanic community,” and it says baseball shouldn’t become “a pawn in a political debate.”
Presente.org, issued a statement Thursday asking Selig to move the game, saying “the commissioner is clearly out of touch with the “minority communities’ he says MLB is so in tune with.”
Selig also said he was concerned the proposed sale of the Texas Rangers has not been completed. Current owner Tom Hicks reached an agreement Jan. 23 with Pittsburgh lawyer Chuck Greenberg, whose group includes current team president Nolan Ryan. Creditors of the Hicks Sports Group, which owns the Rangers and the NHL’s Dallas Stars, have not approved the deal.
“That that needs to be completed as expeditiously as possible — underscoring, underlining expeditiously,” Selig said. “I’m concerned about the length of time it’s taken. I’m concerned for the franchise, for their fans.”
Selig said there was a deadline but wouldn’t say what it is. He has threatened to attempt to remove a lien, but he wouldn’t address what could be done.
“We’ll let human events determine that,” he said.
Selig said his staff will review allegations Philadelphia was trying to steal signs when Phillies bullpen coach Mick Billmeyer was caught on camera peering through binoculars from the bullpen bench at Coors Field this week.
“But I have to tell you now, you could get me started on history — stealing signs has been around for 100 years,” he said. “In my days as a Braves fan way back when, Bob Buhl was caught in the bleachers in Wrigley Field giving signs to (Joe) Adcock, (Eddie) Mathews and (Hank) Aaron.”
Selig also said he remained optimistic about attendance this season.
“We’re down about 2 percent. I’d rather be up 2 percent,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of horrendous weather.”
Still, the major leagues went into late April without a rainout for the first time since 1985.
Rob Manfred, baseball’s executive vice president for labor relations, said management might make a proposal to change the way injured players serve drug-related suspensions when the next collective bargaining agreement starts, for the 2012 season. Currently, time on the disabled list counts toward those penalties, and Cincinnati Reds pitcher Edinson Volquez is serving his 50-game suspension while sidelined following reconstructive elbow surgery.
“I suspect ultimately we’ll have a proposal on that,” he said.
Selig also said he wouldn’t mind if the Wilpon family, which owns the New York Mets, bought the NHL’s New York Islanders or added an expansion MLS franchise to its holdings.
“If somebody believes that kind of synergism will help, then I think that’s good,” he said. “If there’s an owner who believes that owning another sport will really help baseball and help them, fine. I think that’s great.”
At the news conference, Don Hooton said Selig was being given the first “Taylor’s Award” by the Taylor Hooten Foundation, presented for educating youth about the dangers of performance-enhancing drugs. Taylor Hooton, Don’s son, committed suicide at age 17 in 2003 after apparently taking steroids in an effort to get stronger for high school baseball. Major League Baseball is a founding sponsor of the foundation.