Arizona's passage of a controversial anti-immigration law could cost the state Major League Baseball's All-Star Game, potentially depriving an already battered economy of millions of dollars.
A New York congressman who called for the league to move the 2011 game from Phoenix is the latest person to push for an economic boycott against the state in protest of the new law. Companies have been pulling conferences out of Arizona resorts while others have suggested consumers shun companies, such as U.S. Airways, that are based in the state and have yet to condemn the the law.
"I think that when people, states, localities make decisions this monumental, they should know the full consequence of that decision," Rep. José E. Serrano, D-N.Y., said. "I think Major League Baseball, with 40 percent Latino ballplayers at all levels, should make a statement that it will not hold its All-Star Game in a state that discriminates against 40 percent of their people."
Andrew Zimbalist, an economics professor at Smith College who focuses on sports, said the economic loss from one game would have "a pretty small impact" on Arizona but that the attention it would draw could be damaging. "A publicity campaign that goes on for months and months and months makes other people, who have nothing to do with Major League Baseball, stay away from Arizona," Zimbalist said.
The American Immigration Lawyers Association has already announced that it is moving its 300-to-400-person September convention, scheduled for Scottsdale, out of Arizona. Other groups are locked into contacts but some making new bookings are avoiding the state.
"We've probably lost upwards of $100,000 in business," said Jim Hollister, general manager of the FireSky Resort & Spa, a Kimpton hotel in Scottsdale. "Some were definite on the books for us, some were people who were looking to stay with us."
Hollister said the biggest dollar loss came from corporate bookings but that plenty of leisure travelers called or e-mailed and specifically said they were canceling because of the immigration law. Some guests who stayed last week, he said, said they loved the hotel but weren't coming back until the immigration law was changed.
Several large companies planning conferences are deciding to skip Arizona, according to Blake Fleetwood, president of Cook Travel, which has five agencies in the greater New York area. Fleetwood said he is organizing events for several investment banks and doctors' groups who contacted him after the law passed.
"They want to take any large Arizona properties off the list for now," Fleetwood said. "They don't want to support that type of behavior. The rest of the United States is not going to put up with their anti-American attitude. We've sent many travelers to Arizona but now they don't want to go there until they stop these Gestapo-like laws. It's just un-American."