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Protest Baseball: Are the Diamondbacks Disproportionately Targeted for SB 1070?

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Since SB 1070 was signed into law by Governor Brewer on April 23, Arizona has come under fire. As a state, as an idea, no reference to the Grand Canyon State was safe from widespread mocking and insult, not only from protestors from within the state lines, but also across the US.

As perhaps a statement of how sports are truly a powerful marketing tool for a city or state, for both positive and negative, Arizona sports have been the preferred targets for SB 1070 protestors. Part of this is simply timing; as the bill was passed and signed into law, the baseball season was starting, and two Phoenix teams were entering the postseason. What better way to direct attention at your issue and your protest group than come out against a team that was already going to be in the national news?

If that were true, then we should have seen not only protesting against the Diamondbacks, but also the Suns and Coyotes. The Diamondbacks are still dealing with constant, if limited, assault but the Suns were quickly given a pass when owner Robert Sarver came out against the law. The Suns donning their Los Suns uniforms in a high-profile playoff match up against the San Antonio Spurs, while simultaneously denouncing the law, went a long way in soothing the anger of SB 1070 protesters.

But what about the Coyotes? They were in a high profile playoff series against the Red Wings, one of the most popular hockey teams in America. Shouldn’t the protesters swarmed Glendale as the Coyotes fought Detroit to 7 games? Well, if there were protesters I personally didn’t see any, and there is not a single news article that references SB 1070 and Phoenix’s hockey team. It’s not outside of normal logic to say that the average SB 1070 protester, though, neither watches hockey or cares about the Coyotes. Still, not a single reference?

So what about the Cardinals, then? The NFL, as the biggest and richest league in America, gets the most coverage and would be prime territory for a protest, right? Don’t hold your breath, as the Phoenix Business Journal details local protesters plans to avoid protesting Cardinals games. That doesn’t mean they won’t change their mind when a nationally televised games comes up later in the year, but nothing is planned for now. And if an editorialist or newspaper has written an article connecting SB 1070 to the Arizona Cardinals, it doesn't show up in Google News search.

Now let’s search for SB 1070 protests in connection to the Diamondbacks. 196 results, and each result has hundreds of individual articles tied to it. Using Google search, not news, brings up over a million results for "sb 1070 diamondbacks." Now why is that? Perhaps it’s because the Diamondbacks have a marquee date in baseball next year with the 2011 All-Star Game. Or perhaps it’s because principle owner Ken Kendrick is an ardent Republican supporter, which is evidence enough for protesters.

There must be something more going on, though. Kendrick has come out and said he "personally opposes" the law, and the Diamondbacks have distanced themselves from SB 1070 as well. It’s also hard to believe that random Diamondbacks games have a better viewership for protesting than NBA playoffs, and although the MLB All-Star Game should get two or three times the TV ratings of the NBA playoffs, it’s still nothing compared to the NFL regular season. So if it was just driven by protesters hoping for a wider audience, shouldn't they want to pick the NFL, which gets routinely 16 million viewers for just regular season games?

And the Suns couldn’t have avoided the protests simply by coming out against the law, since both the Suns and the Diamondbacks came out in opposition within a couple days of each other. Perhaps the Suns took it a little further by wearing Los Suns jerseys, but that was a uniform they had ready to go and prepared from earlier in the season. It’s not like the Suns just designed a new jersey to help protest.

Perhaps what’s really underlying the disproportionate outrage at the Diamondbacks is two fold: a large Hispanic base in players and fans, and a long, travel-intensive schedule. Multiple baseball players have come out against the law, and their leadership, even if it’s indirect, is guiding the protest towards baseball and not other sports that have a lower Hispanic playing base. Baseball also has a longer schedule than any other American sport, and since the Diamondbacks have to travel all over the country, they give ample opportunity for protesters in every city and state to come out and make a scene. In the NBA playoffs a team plays at most four different teams. The Diamondbacks play four road teams a month, or more.

At this point, there might also be a snowball effect, where protestors started opposing the Diamondbacks, and as more protesters joined, they followed the lead of those that came first. There’s no reason to believe that the Diamondbacks, or even the All-Star Game, would be the best target for protesters. There’s also no reason to believe that the Diamondbacks in any way support the law in a way that the other teams in the area do not. It’s obvious the Diamondbacks receive more negative coverage than the other Phoenix teams, but complete story for why is still unclear. Perhaps the only way to know for certain is to survey protesters, but do they even know? Or are the Diamondbacks a convenient target for their general angst?