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.
I would like to have seen what [late baseball legend] Ted Williams would’ve said, because Ted Williams, whose mother was Mexican and father was American, was born right here in San Diego. Not only did he have to have to suffer the discrimination on behalf of his mother, but he was a veteran, as you know. He went to fight for this country. Is this what he fought for? Or Reggie Jackson, whose mother is Puerto Rican: would she be subject to this type of racial profiling?
The Padres players see what’s happening. They see there are deaths on the border every day. They see these things on the news and they say we have to come out and say something about it. You mentioned several Latino players, but you also mention Heath Bell and there’s another a guy named Mike Adams, one of the relief pitchers, who has also spoken out against this, saying we stand up and support our brothers in this struggle. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. It’s that spirit. Basketball has a handful of Latino players. Football has a handful of Latino players. But in baseball, a third of the players are Latino. So what I have told the commissioners office is that your silences are loud and clear. We’re going to remember that you stood by silently while people were being persecuted. Two people are dying crossing the border every day. You’re saying I want to go celebrate over there at that state, the most deadly of the border states and the most racist.
One player that didn’t speak out was Alex Rodriguez. When the media was in the locker-room. He we stated and pointing at other players "to talk to them, talk to them." What do you think about that —I mean, feel like this is one of those moments where silence really is a damning option and if it is that way for Bud Selig, don’t we have to say the same thing for Alex Rodriguez?
Absolutely. We need to hold him to the same standards. But Bud Selig needs to be held to a higher standard he is the commissioner, and if Bud Selig was the commissioner in the 1940s we never would have heard of Jackie Robinson. He is very well known for doing nothing.
What’s the main next step for you in this movement? What should be the main next step for listeners in this movement? What can people do to move the game?
Well, one of the things people can do is continue to have protests when the Diamondbacks come to town. Over here in the National League West they play us a couple of times at home and they’re going to be playing us at the end of August. We’ll have more protests, but most of the cities either don’t have a baseball team or don’t have the Diamondbacks on their way in. But you can still hold rallies and protests to let the commissioner know how you feel. It’s so important for people to get involved and speak out and protest and to call the commissioner’s office or start boycotting games and let people know that you’re boycotting the game because of this. If there’s an issue—whether it’s the SB1070 law or discrimination against a group of people—baseball should be at the forefront. It’s are national pastime. And Jackie Robinson broke the color line but Bud Selig, through his silence, is putting that color line back up and we’re not going to stand for it. Everyday that passes there’s more and more anger towards Bud Selig for not wanting to deal with it. The time for silence is done.