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In the Best Interest of Baseball : Racist flap in Cincinnati must be dealt with properly, fairly and thoroughly

November 28, 1992

Did Cincinnati Reds owner Marge Schott make the disgraceful racist comments that she has been accused of? If she did not, she has done a poor job of refuting these serious charges. If she did, baseball's leadership should move swiftly to impose severe punishment. And Schott owes the world a full and proper apology.

Schott's allegedly racist statements were cited in a deposition filed in a former Reds employee's wrongful firing and racial discrimination lawsuit, since dropped. The deposition charged that she made racist references to the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday and African-Americans in general, plus anti-Semitic comments.

In her curious and inadequate public statement last week, Schott apologized, sort of, for comments that she neither admitted nor denied making. The appropriate official response--one that would be in the best interest of baseball--would be a swift investigation followed, if necessary, by a suspension or large fine.

Alas, that isn't likely to happen anytime soon because of the absence of a powerful and independent commissioner. The previous commissioner was Fay Vincent, a strong figure who had removed George Steinbrenner after the recalcitrant New York Yankees owner improperly investigated a player. Under pressure from club owners, Vincent reluctantly resigned in September, in part because of a disagreement stemming from an ill-fated plan to realign the National League. The executive council now running baseball should act quickly to appoint a new commissioner--and a strong, capable one, too, not some doormat. This latest controversy--which is expected to be brought up by the council when it meets Dec. 7--could, if allowed to drag on, add another stain to a game that is suffering from image problems and other troubles.

Baseball should use this incident as an opportunity to emphasize the place that racism has in the game traditionally known as America's pastime: absolutely no place at all.

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