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Congressional Hispanic Caucus declines to intervene on behalf of Frank McCourt

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus has declined a request to intervene on behalf of Dodgers owner Frank McCourt in his showdown with Major League Baseball, Rep. Charles Gonzalez said Friday.

Gonzalez (D-San Antonio), the chairman of the CHC, met Friday with MLB lobbyists. He said he had requested a meeting with Commissioner Bud Selig to discuss issues of concern to the Latino community but said the CHC would not stand with McCourt in his battle against Selig.

“We can’t take sides in a business dispute,” Gonzalez said. “We do want to express our appreciation for what Mr. McCourt has meant to the Latino community. He has been supportive of many of our issues.”

Selig would be willing to meet with Gonzalez and the other members of the CHC, said MLB spokesman Pat Courtney.

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Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Los Angeles), who is a CHC member and whose district includes Dodger Stadium, also met with the MLB lobbyists Friday. Becerra said he hoped the meeting with Selig would take place soon so he could better understand all sides of the Dodgers issue.

Becerra said McCourt has worked to build ties to the local Latino community and has allowed him to hold community job fairs at Dodger Stadium. The congressman said he has heard from constituents — many of whom work at Dodger Stadium — about the rancor between McCourt and Selig.

“I have been approached about that — not in the same way I’ve been approached about a lack of jobs or Medicare or things like that,” Becerra said. “I have had people come up to me and ask whether there’s a witch hunt against Frank McCourt by Major League Baseball.”

In a May 31 letter to the CHC, several Latino community leaders charged Selig with “carrying out a vendetta” against McCourt and asked the caucus to put the commissioner “on notice that … hostile intervention is unacceptable to our community’s federal legislative leadership.”

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McCourt is unlikely to make the Dodgers’ payroll next week, after Selig rejected a contract with Fox Sports that would have provided the Dodgers owner with a financial lifeline. If McCourt fails to make payroll, Selig could seize the team and put it up for sale, with both parties bracing for a legal brawl.

In their letter, the Latino leaders said that Selig’s relationship with McCourt had “soured” in part because the Dodgers owner had wanted to speak out publicly last year against Arizona’s controversial immigration law and the commissioner had “muzzled” him.

McCourt has said MLB has made a “predetermined” decision to remove him from ownership. He declined to comment last week when asked whether he believes the league’s actions resulted in part from his stance on the Arizona law.

MLB executive vice president Rob Manfred confirmed that he had discussed with McCourt the possibility of speaking out against the Arizona law. Manfred said he told McCourt his status as the Dodgers owner could lead fans to believe he spoke on behalf of MLB at a time Selig — or the team most affected, the Arizona Diamondbacks — should do so.

“Mr. McCourt, to his credit, checked with us,” Manfred said. “It was not that we were trying to muzzle him. We just didn’t think he was an appropriate spokesman for the industry.”

bill.shaikin@latimes.com

twitter.com/BillShaikin


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