The 1993 Super Bowl was originally scheduled to be played at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona. However, the NFL player's association voted to move the game to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, because Arizona Republicans refused to recognize Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

Losing a Super Bowl, however, was the least of the state's problems for a state economy that depends heavily on tourism.

Tourism is big business in Arizona, with visitors spending $18.5 billion and directly supporting 167,000 jobs in 2008, the most recent year for which statistics were available. Of the 37.4 million overnight visitors that year, 3.8 million came from Mexico, the largest source of international visitors, according to the Arizona Office of Tourism.

Boycotters targeted that industry in the early 90s.

That uproar began in 1987, when then-Gov. Evan Mecham rescinded former Gov. Bruce Babbitt's order creating a paid state holiday for the slain civil-rights leader.

Mecham said it was created illegally and called for a voter referendum. Within a few months, nearly $1 million in convention business was lost. The figure was up to $4.6 million a couple of months later, including the cancellation of three large conventions.

Voters failed to pass a state holiday in 1990, resulting in more headlines and cancellations. In 1991, the NFL pulled the 1993 Super Bowl from metropolitan Phoenix.

Gene Blue, the chairman of the Arizona Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Committee, said at the time, "I don't know if 'embarrassing' is descriptive enough for this controversy. You can't travel anywhere in the country or even overseas without finding people who are aware of Arizona but for the wrong reasons."

Voters approved the paid holiday in 1992, and Tempe was awarded the 1996 Super Bowl.

Tourism officials estimated Phoenix alone lost almost 170 conventions and an estimated $300 million in benefits from the controversy.

The new immigration law is already generating heavy talk of boycotts, to the chagrin of the Arizona's hospitality industry, while businesses worry the law will cost their state manufacturing and plant jobs.

Jack Boyd, a Princeton, N.J., consultant who helps companies look for sites for their operations and offices, said the anti-immigration bill could tip businesses away from locating in Arizona. He said Senate Bill 1070 is "definitely on the minds of our clients."

Those that are particularly sensitive to the issue are food processors and manufacturing companies that often hire Hispanic employees and don't want to stress over checking their citizenship papers and facing the prospects of penalties, Boyd said.

"There is concern among manufacturers, especially food processors, that this (passage of the law) could lead to some plant closings."

The new law has already cost Arizona a convention.

Just minutes after Brewer signed 1070 into law on Friday, the American Immigration Lawyers' Association canceled their annual fall convention. They had planned to host the September event in Scottsdale.

"We can't in good conscious spend the organization's money in a state that's going to pursue these kinds of policies," said Regina Jeffries of the AILA.

The LA-based La Opinion, the nation's largest Spanish-language newspaper, has called for a boycott of the state. San Francisco has already called for its residents to avoid Arizona, and will cut off its own ties to Arizona businesses wherever they can contractually do so. Bob Brigham, an activist known as blogswarm on Daily Kos, has created an Act.Ly page asking CalPERS to divest itself of any Arizona investments. A similar divestment of South African investments by the California Public Employee Retirement System was a big catalyst in the collapse of Apartheid.

The irony is that this law is so Constitutionally compromised, it will likely never get adopted. Yet Arizona's xenophobes have essentially turned their state in an American pariah, the likes they hadn't seen since their MLK disaster, while costing it tourism and jobs. And for what? For a hateful statement that will do nothing to address the issue of half a million undocumented workers in their state, could bankrupt myriad municipalities, and provide the ultimate catalyst for real immigration reform at the federal level.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Tue Apr 27, 2010 at 09:40 AM PDT.

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