September 18, 2012; Bronx, NY, USA; Toronto Blue Jays infielder Yunel Escobar (5) during a press conference addressing offensive comments written on his eye black before a game against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Racial comments made by Donald Sterling have sent shock waves across the sports world and beyond. Even though Donald Sterling is an NBA team owner his comments and the disciplinary action to follow will inevitably find its way to the Baseball world. Baseball has had its share of controversy caused by racial comments by players and owners alike.
Marge Schott, the former Cincinnati Reds owner, didn’t just insult players of color….she insulted everyone. She attacked the Jewish and gay community as freely as she attacked players of color. Marge Schott once called Eric Davis and Dave Parker “Her million dollar n-words”, an incident that she did not even get fined for. Over her tenure as Reds owner Schott made many controversial comments, but it was her sympathetic comments about Nazi Germany that ultimately got her suspended from baseball for a year-plus with a hefty fined. While she was not pushed out of the game, Schott would sell her controlling interest in the team the following season.
Tom Yawkey, Red Sox owner from 1933 to 1976. Yawkey was the main reason that the Boston Red Sox did not sign a ‘Negro’ for 14 years after the signing of Jackie Robinson. It was Yawkey’s refusal to sign ‘Black’ ballplayers that earned him the distinction of being a racist. For a good read on Yawkey click this link.
The Toronto Blue Jays are not free of racial controversy. The best coach in Blue Jays history, Cito Gaston, had his own moment of controversy with a couple of journalists in 1997, when he accused them of racism. There was the ‘White Jays Scandal’ of 2003, when everyone’s favourite Blue Jays General Manager J.P. Ricciardi purposefully looked to sign only whites and fielded an Opening Day Line-up with the least ethnically diverse line-up. Dirk Hayhurst hit a nerve earlier this month with his piece on racism in the game and how one scout said, “This team has too many Latinos on it to win.” Shi Davidi recently pointed out that the Jays have fielded the most Dominicans in a Lineup in MLB History.
Martin Luther King Jr. on racism,
"I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word."
I hope that the Toronto Blue Jays continue to scout players based on their ability on the field and not the color of their skin or their country of origin. I hope that we will never have to deal with the ignorance of a John Rocker. I was pleased with the way that management dealt with the Yunel Escobar and his ‘Homophobic Eye Black’ incident and how they ultimately cut that cancer from the team by trading him the following winter. Although this was not racism related, it showed a level of ignorance that is unacceptable.
There exists a silver lining in the Donald Sterling fiasco. That silver lining is that it shows us that racism and ignorance still exists. This fiasco has illuminated how far we have come in tearing down the walls that separate color, but it also has illuminated how much further we still must go.
I leave you with another quote for one of the most influential men ever, Martin Luther King Jr.
"Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity."