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Is there a Sandy Koufax out there?

By Andrew Polin

It was a proud moment in American Jewish history when Sandy Koufax refused to play in game 1 of the 1965 World Series because it fell on Yom Kippur.

So the question, I ask today,  is whether any professional and amateur athlete will take a social or political stand against Arizona’s immigration law that allows law enforcement officials to stop anyone they “think” could be an illegal alien. How the police will do that without racial profiling is beyond me.

So, I have to go back to my original question: Will any athlete refuse to play in Arizona? Will high school athletes spurn Arizona colleges? Will professional baseball, football and basketball players refuse to travel to Arizona to play? Will Arizona’s professional teams have a harder time signing free agents from athletes who may fear getting stopped on the streets and deported to Mexico?

I hope the answer is yes.

Who will stand up to racism? Whether our athletes like it or not, they are role models. They can have an impact on society if they so choose.

First, before going further, I want to say that many of our athletes do good in society. Many set up foundations, donate to charities and make a difference. They are active in their communities. But I always believe that donating money, though something that is good, is the easiest way to support social change, especially if you have a lot of money. Taking a stand that will divide your fans takes courage, not money. A funny thing happens once you take a stand on any issue. There will be a lot of people who will disagree with you. Will these people not buy the products that athletes sell in ads?

The great Michael Jordan has been criticized because he stayed apolitical, some would say to avoid controversy because he was a spokesperson for many corporate entities. Tiger Woods has been attacked for the same issue. So was Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer, as well as the white golf establishment, in the 1950s-60s who played tournaments at golf courses that did not have a welcome mat out for minorities.

What would have happened if Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus refused to play at a location that was discriminatory? Would they have facilitated a more open-door policy in society at-large? We will never know.

The only athletes I can remember taking a stand was the larger than life Muhammad Ali and the great NFL running back, Jim Brown. (If anyone can provide names of other athletes who have taken stands, please post them on my blog. I’m sure there are more examples). Ali lost many years of his career because he refused to serve in Viet Nam because of his religious beliefs. He lost at least six years of his professional career, but “the Greatest” took a stand.

If anyone questions the impact that one person can have on society all you need to look to is Kirk Douglas, not an athlete but an actor. Douglas single-handedly ended the Hollywood blacklist when making the movie Spartacus. The screenplay was written by Dalton Trumbo, a blacklisted writer at the time. Instead of taking credit for the screenplay, a common practice at the time, Douglas insisted that Trumbo be given credit in the opening and ending credits of the movie, thus standing up to the blacklist.

Arizona lawmakers could use a role model. Are they any Ali’s or Browns out there?  It’s obvious they need one.


One Response

  1. Just wanted to say hello & that I appreciate the posts regarding Arizona’s new law. As much as many people would prefer sports & politics not mix, the truth is that sometimes it takes professional sports to either begin the process for equality or end an unfair policy. Jackie Robinson integrated the major leagues years before civil rights legislation became the law of the land.

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