Enrique Morones has been at the heart of the movement to move the 2011 Major League Baseball All-Star Game from the state of Arizona. As much as anyone in the United States, he is uniquely positioned to provide leadership on the connection between baseball and the rights of immigrants. For six years, Morones worked for the San Diego Padres as a vice president in charge of connecting the franchise to the Latino community, Major League Baseball’s first Department of Hispanic Marketing. In addition, Morones is the founder of Border Angels, an organization that leaves blankets, food and water on the rough desert terrain to provide tools of survival for people crossing the border. Considering the estimated hundreds who die every year from dehydration, hypothermia and sun stroke while crossing those unforgiving acres, Morones could be seen as a hero. Instead he has been the subject of death threats and harassment from those who accuse him of encouraging illegal immigration. Now Morones has turned his energy against his former employer Major League Baseball. Morones has joined the cause of movethegame.org to move the 2011 All-Star Game. Here I spoke to Mr. Morones about the struggle.
Why do you think the push to move the 2011 All-Star Game out of Arizona is worth people’s time and energy?
Baseball is supposedly our national pastime. It’s unbelievable to me that we want to celebrate the annual All-Star Game in the state of the anti-immigrant Minutemen, and the state where Sheriff Joe Arpaio breaking every civil and human right possible. You also have Nazis literally on the border of Arizona, and then you also have the Senate Bill 1070, which has launched a vicious cycle of racial profiling. You have all these things happening in Arizona right now. So what does Major League Baseball say? Let’s go celebrate an All-Star Game in that state. That’s wrong. Arizona has become the new Mississippi and brown has become the new black. We are all Arizona. We are not going to allow this to happen. We’re going to continue to protest and continue to knock on Bud Selig’s door until he opens it and show some courage, because his current posture of not saying much of anything is in fact taking a stand. And it’s the wrong stand.
Are you part of any organization that’s pushing to move the game?
My organization Border Angels is a human rights organization, and human rights has no borders. Border Angels is very involved with this issue. We’re working in conjunction with a lot of national and local organizations. We rallied in front of the All Star game in Anaheim with many other organizations. This is now what it has always been: a collective movement.
Enrique, you were an executive for a number of years with the San Diego Padres. It’s been striking to me that several members of the Padres like Adrian Gonzalez, Heath Bell and the Hairston brothers, have been some of the most outspoken athletes against SB-1070. You’ve seen more penetration among players speaking out critically from the Padres than any other team. How do you explain that?
The Padres as an organization have not been active, but the players have. This is the way it was when I was there as well. When I was the VP of Latino marketing and diversity marketing for the Padres from 1995 to 2001, some of the players like Carlos Hernández used to go out with me to the desert to place water and blankets and help me with my work with Border Angels. The players saw the crisis and they still see it. They see these things that are taking place. I think that’s one thing that people forget, that these players are human beings. They’re regular people like you and I, except that they have tremendous athletic ability. They read the newspapers, they see the TV shows, and they hear the hate radio and so forth. So they’re also moved by what’s going on and they want to participate. This is no exception with the All-Star game. They’ve been seeing my comments and other people’s comments and they got fed up with it. Adrian Gonzalez, I know his brother Edgar, I know his father, David. We’ve been together at different events, so he knows what’s going on. The Hairston brothers who play for the Padres, whose dad is African-American and their mother is Mexican. They’re very familiar with this issue, having lived part of their life on the Arizona border. Ozzie Guillen, manager for the Chicago White Sox, he was a Padre. So, you have all these people that either are Padres, were Padres, and other players that are fed up.