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Politicizing Our National Pastime

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Most critics of The New York Times are well aware of the liberal bias on its news pages that is as pronounced as the leftward slant on its opinion pages. But the Gray Lady’s sports section is just as bad.

In the past several years, the “Sports of the Times” has had two egregious examples of politicized coverage. One was the campaign for changes at the private golf club that hosts the Masters tournament. The other was its disgraceful coverage of the rape accusations lodged against the Duke lacrosse team.

Long after the rest of the media acknowledged the Duke story was a hoax, the Timescontinued piling on the falsehoods. After the dust settled and there was no longer even a shadow of doubt about the innocence of the young men the Timesreporters and columnists had done their best to besmirch, there were no apologies.

Being the Timesand imbued with a sense of high liberal moral purpose means you never have to say you’re sorry.

So it was hardly surprising to see the Times lead its sports section last Saturday with a highly politicized piece by author Jonathan Mahler seeking to incite protests against the Major League Baseball All-Star Game next month.

Mahler’s problem with the Summer Classic is that it is being held at the home ballpark of the Arizona Diamondbacks. We’re told that’s a bad thing because Arizona passed a law calling for local law enforcement agencies to ask people (already being questioned about possible misbehavior) about their immigration status.

The law may be unnecessary, but it is neither racial profiling nor a modern equivalent of Jim Crow. Even those of us who believe illegal immigration is not a lethal threat to the nation believe the laws concerning entry into the country should be enforced.

But the law, which has yet to be enforced due to court challenges, offends the sensibilities of some Hispanics. That is enough for some to justify a boycott of the entire state until it cries uncle the way it did 20 years ago over its resistance to the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

The Hispanic contribution to our national pastime has been enormous. It is even more important these days since so many Americans seem to have abandoned baseball for basketball and football. Yet Mahler considers baseball insufficiently politically correct on Hispanic issues especially when compared to the National Basketball Association and the National Football League.

As Mahler notes, Hispanic players had a tough time for many years but the sometimes unhappy history of their experience (which was never as bad as the discrimination suffered by African-Americans) would not justify the sport intervening in the Arizona case as Mahler suggests.

The author is determined to build a case against Major League Baseball, but at times blames it for things that are the faults of others. Recent scandals about the recruitment of players in Latin America were actually the fault of local Hispanics, not greedy gringos, who exploited and lied about prospects.

The problem with his piece, as well as his whole argument, is that it is premised on an assumption based on a political point of view he merely assumes but does not prove. Some Hispanic players may disagree with the Arizona law, but does that, as Mahler seems to imply, mean all of baseball must agree or be guilty of racism?

Most Americans support enforcement of laws against illegal immigration, including the Arizona statute. If baseball were to take sides on one side of that battle, what would Mahler have players do who disagree with a boycott of Arizona?

Mahler’s attempt to analogize the disagreement over the Arizona law with the breaking of baseball’s color line also doesn’t hold up. As he himself notes, this is the 100th anniversary of the first Hispanics to play in the big leagues. Nor is there any comparison between Jackie Robinson and the late Roberto Clemente, who was a great player and died tragically but does not deserve the same place in both baseball and American history that Robinson does.

Americans can disagree on what should be done about illegal immigration, but the best place to hash that out is in the halls of legislatures, the courts and most of all the ballot boxes. Despite the desire of the Times to incite division and anger, baseball should stand clear of that fight.

Jonathan S. Tobin is senior online editor of Commentary magazine and chief political blogger at Commentary’s Contentions blog, where this originally appeared. He can be reached via e-mail at jtobin@commentarymagazine.com.

About the Author: Jonathan S. Tobin is senior online editor of Commentary magazine and chief political blogger at www.commentarymagazine.com. He can be reached via e-mail at jtobin@commentarymagazine.com.

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