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Angels Draw Criticism for Robinson Analogy

January 20, 2005|Bill Shaikin | Times Staff Writer

The Angels cited the precedent of Jackie Robinson in a legal filing supporting their new marketing strategy, a move that "trivializes" Robinson's landmark journey to becoming the first black player in the major leagues, a noted author on race and sport said Wednesday.

The city of Anaheim has filed suit against the Angels, alleging the team has violated its stadium lease in part by dropping the Anaheim name from its marketing efforts. Responding to the suit in a filing Tuesday, the Angels wrote that "industry practice or tradition is particularly susceptible to changes. There was a time when baseball was fully segregated. Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier. Once, baseball was only played on grass, or outdoors. Now, AstroTurf and domed stadiums are prevalent. Unlike today, there was once no designated hitter. Now there is an expanded playoff format

Comparing the integration of black players to the adoption of new field surfaces and marketing strategies rings hollow, said Todd Boyd, professor of critical studies in the USC School of Cinema and Television.

"I think it trivializes the Jackie Robinson situation," said Boyd, who has written extensively on race and sport. "I think that's the problem with the analogy.

"It's correct to say things change and baseball has to be able to incorporate those changes, but to use the Jackie Robinson situation as a parallel to a marketing opportunity is a bit insensitive, in terms of the experience of Jackie Robinson and the other black players excluded from baseball because of the color of their skin. To me, that's much more substantive and much more significant for baseball and America."

The excerpt from the court filing should not be taken out of the context of illustrating change within the sport, Angel spokesman Tim Mead said.

"The point is simply to show baseball is always changing, and changing for the better," he said. "The intent is to show all those changes, some obviously of greater significance than others.

"There is not an analogy between a marketing campaign and Jackie Robinson."

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