Updated with response from SF Giants at bottom of post
The San Francisco Giants will host the Arizona Diamondbacks tonight (July 31), beginning a three-game series that will determine the first place slot in the National League West. A lot of eyes will be on our 2010 league champions – all the more reason, says a classic Mission District arts and culture organization, for them to take a stand against racist anti-immigration laws.
In early June, community members who had been leaders of the 1960s to '80s group Casa Hispana de Bellas Artes sent Giants CEO Bill Newcombe a letter with a simple request. They want the baseball team to wear its popular 'Gigantes' jerseys while playing the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Atlanta Braves, two squads that hail from states that have recently passed laws codifing racial profiling in the fight against illegal immigration. The letter tells the team "this kind of law has created a paralyzing climate of fear among Latino families, citizen and non-citizen alike."
San Francisco, the Casa Hispana elders insist, does not swing at discriminatory government. Reminding the Giants organization of its long-standing support of the Latino community, they're politely encouraging the team to represent its fans by speaking out against discrimination. We caught up with Casa Hispana elder Don Santina for an email interview to explain why his group asked its team for a wardrobe change. The Guardian was unable to reach the SF Giants for comment – but any organizational response we get will be added to this post.
San Francisco Bay Guardian: Tell us about the mission of Casa Hispana de Bellas Artes.
Don Santina: Casa Hispana de Bellas Artes was founded in 1966 in the Mission District by a group of artists and poets to promote cultural advocacy for Latino-Chicano-Raza culture. [Our] group produced and sponsored programs year-round but focused particularly on an annual two-month long Raza/Hispanidad Festival which opened on October 12, Dia de la Raza. Among the multitude of programs, exhibits, performances, and events produced included major undertakings like the Chichen Itza exhibit at SF State, the pre-Colombian artifacts at the De Young and 24th Street BART station opening, the Cisco Kid Festival with Duncan Renaldo, and the Latin American Theatre Festival with Enrique Buenaventura, and low rider car exhibit at the US Presidio. Casa faded into history in 1983 when its major funding sources withdrew. The National Endowment for the Arts was seized by Reaganites.
In 1975 Casa Hispana executive director Amilcar Lobos Yong read a bilingual version of "Casey at the Bat" at Candlestick Park as part of a program in honor of the Giant's support of the Latino community. Photo by Joe Ramos
SFBG: Why did you send this letter to the Giants?
DS: The elders of Casa wrote to Bill Newcomb’s Giants organization because it had produced a pre-game program in Candlestick Park with Horace Stoneham’s Giants team in 1975 honoring the Giants for their “pioneer recognition of Latin players” in the racist world of major league baseball. At the event, Casa Poets Theatre read “Casey at the Bat” in English and Spanish before the game and gave awards to the Giants, Juan Marichal, and Tito Fuentes for his works with youth in the Mission District (editor's note: the awards were presented by long-time Bay Area Latino news legend Luis Echegoyen). Casa people felt that the Giants should continue that anti-racist policy by making a genuine statement against SB 1070 by at least wearing Gigantes uniforms when playing Arizona and Atlanta.
SFBG: What's been the response from the team? Did they get back to you?
DS: The Giants received Casa’s letter on June 9, and the business has not responded. Casa is disappointed in this lack of response and respect from a San Francisco-based team which has many Latino players.
SFBG: What is a professional sports team role's in their community? Should they be speaking out on political and social issues?
DS: A professional sports team has the same responsibilities to the community as any other business; in a word: Spike Lee’s “do the right thing.” Unfortunately, these teams are all mega-corporate businesses with morality based on profit. Dave Zirin has covered this topic very thoroughly.
SFBG: How much of the artists and community members involved with Casa Hispana are baseball fans?
DS: Most of the Casa people love the Giants; however, they also love fútbol, a.k.a. the international game of soccer.
SFBG: Do you think they'll be wearing the Gigantes jerseys at AT&T Park tonight?
DS: We don’t think they’ll wear the Gigantes uniforms without public pressure or embarrassment. [But] if they do, it will be beneficial as a public stand against racial profiling laws.
UPDATED WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 3: The Guardian contacted Giants spokesperson Shana Daum, who said she couldn't recall recieving Casa Hispana's letter but that the Giants would not be wearing their Gigantes jerseys at all during this week's Arizona series. "We try to support the community, but we don't want to take a political stance," she told us.
"There's other ways for major league baseball to get involved." Daum cited the team's annual Fiesta Gigantes celebration during September's Hispanic Heritage Month, HIV/AIDS awareness days, the team's pioneering involvement in the It Gets Better campaign. She added "but we appreciate the spirit in which [Casa Hispana's request to wear the Gigantes jersey] was asked."