Tag Archives: race

Racist Phillies Episode Earns City Apology

Today, the Philadelphia city council voted to pass a resolution which had been introduced by Councilwoman Helen Gym. 
The resolution was basically a formal apology from the City of Philadelphia to Jackie Robinson for words and actions which baseball’s racial trailblazer experienced while playing here against the Phillies.
The resolution reads as follows:

Be it resolved by the Council of the City of Philadelphia, that City Council hereby recognize, honor and celebrate April 15, 2016 as a day honoring the lifetime achievements and lasting influence of Jackie Robinson, and apologizing for the racism he faced as a player while visiting Philadelphia.”

The date of April 15th is significant in that it intentionally coincides with what Major League Baseball has traditionally celebrated as “Jackie Robinson Day” across the game. All players wear his uniform number, a number that is retired across the game, on that day.
Beginning in Robinson’s rookie season of 1947, the first black player in MLB in over 60 years was subject to taunts, derogatory comments, and outright racist harassment by some fans and opposition players across the National League.
Nowhere was that harassment more offensive than here in the City of Brotherly Love, where Phillies’ manager Ben Chapman infamously attacked Robinson with racist verbal barbs that would make a sailor blush.

Allen Barra of The Atlantic interviewed Chapman for a piece just three years ago, asking “Is it true that you said those things to Jackie Robinson? You know, the names, the words, that everyone said you used?

Heck, yeah,” replied Chapman, per Barra. “Sure I did. Everyone used those kind of words back then. Heck, we said the same things to Joe DiMaggio and Hank Greenberg.

Those things included calling DiMaggio names such as “Dago” and “Wop” on the field, and the Jewish Greenberg “Kike” as well.
It was all part of the game back then,” said Chapman. “You said anything you had to say to get an edge. Believe me, being a southerner, I took a lot of abuse myself when I first played in New York. If you couldn’t take it, it was a case of if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.
The Phillies and their fans, however, became well-known for their vocal racial attacks on Robinson in his early years. As Philly.com’s Tricia Nadolny tells it, Chapman really laid into Robinson. 

“When the Phillies traveled to Brooklyn that 1947 season, Phils manager Ben Chapman led the bench in crude taunting of Robinson such as, “Go back to the cotton fields,” and “They’re waiting for you in the jungles, black boy.””

It was part of a questionable racial history for the team. It wasn’t until 1957, a decade after Robinson had broken baseball’s color barrier, that the Phils added their first black player, shortstop John Kennedy.
Kennedy came into a game for the first time on April 22nd, 1957 as a pinch-runner in the top of the 8th inning against, ironically, the Brooklyn Dodgers. It was exactly 10 years to the day after Chapman had first verbally berated Robinson, who had retired after the 1956 season.
Philadelphia would go on to experience some questionable racial attacks by fans on 1960’s superstar Richie Allen during that decade as well. Today’s apology by the Philly city council may be specifically geared towards Robinson, but is certainly an attempt to begin overcoming those old unacceptable actions and attitudes as well.

Philadelphia was one of the most disappointing places where he experienced racism,” said Gym per Nadolny. “And I felt like it was important for City Council to acknowledge that, to acknowledge a great man. And that sometimes can start with an apology.

One way that the Phillies as a ball club have permanently chosen to acknowledge Robinson is to hang his number in Dodger blue upon an outfield wall, prominently displayed at Citizens Bank Park alongside greats of the franchise’ past, right next to the numbers of pitchers Steve Carlton and Robin Roberts.

What’s Wrong With Donald Sterling?

For those who may have been hiding in a cave, or vacationing out in the woods, and not had access to public information over the last few days, the picture on the left and comments regarding same have been causing quite a controversy.

While the title of this article is “What’s Wrong With Donald Sterling?“, Mr. Sterling himself is not even in that picture. It is actually a picture of basketball legend and Los Angeles Dodgers co-owner Magic Johnson, surrounded on the left by Rachel Rodriguez and on the right by V. Stiviano.

Ms. Stiviano happens to be the ex-girlfriend of a very wealthy 81-year old man, and that old man is the Donald Sterling in question. He is the longtime owner of the Los Angeles Clippers in the NBA, and he was none too pleased, despite having a decades-long friendship with Magic, to learn that Stiviano had posted this picture to her Instagram account.

Now for those of you still behind the times, Instagram is yet another social media site, a place where folks post up pictures. What makes Instagram unique is that it has a variety of editing tools to give your photos a unique look and feel, such as the old-time look you might find in boardwalk 1800’s-era pics, or turning color pics into black and white. The site also allows you to share the pics easily to other social media sites, such as Facebook or Twitter.

Stiviano apparently had the pic snapped months ago at a 2013 Dodgers game, but just recently posted it to her Instragram, along with another of her posing with Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp, also a black man. Apparently a friend of Sterling saw the pictures and told him about them. This prompted Sterling to confront Stiviano in a conversation that was recorded by her, in which he demonstrated quite obviously the answer to the question posed by this article.

What’s wrong with Donald Sterling? The answer is fairly easy: he is a racist. We are talking separate drinking fountains, separate bathrooms, have them sit in the back of the bus racist. Because while publicly he has glad-handed black people, donated larges sums of money to black charities, and even received awards from black organizations, deep in his heart he simply feels they are inferior. Why else would he make the comments that he made to Stiviano?

In the conversation, Sterling asks “Why are you taking pictures with minorities?” When Stiviano, of black Latino heritage herself, questions this concern, Sterling replies “Yeah, it bothers me a lot that you want to promo…broadcast that you’re associating with black people.” He goes on to say that she doesn’t have to “..have yourself with, walking with black people” and specifically states that he doesn’t want her bringing Johnson to the Clippers games as well.

Besides the obvious problems with these statements, they are completely ironic, as Sterling has owned the Clippers since 1981, and the overwhelming majority of the team’s players over those three decades have been black players. In fact, the NBA itself, in which he is one of only a few dozen owners, features blacks as an overwhelming majority of it’s overall player base. So Sterling has had no problem with employing blacks, or making money from the performance of black athletes.

Of course, Sterling, through others (he has not publicly responded himself yet) is circling the wagons. He alleges that Stiviano embezzled nearly $2 million from him during the relationship, that she stated she would “get even” with him, and of course there is the whole matter of her taping this conversation to begin with.

Sterling, by the way, is married. Has been for 50 years. His wife filed a lawsuit in March which states that Stiviano met Sterling at the 2010 Super Bowl and began having an affair with him. According to the Los Angeles Times, Mrs. Sterling alleges in her suit that he used community property to buy Stiviano “a 2012 Ferrari, two Bentleys and a 2013 Range Rover“, worth over half a million dollars all together. The suit also alleges that he gave Stiviano nearly $2 million to purchase a duplex near the Beverly Center, a major LA shopping mall, last year, and has provided her with nearly a quarter of a million dollars in upkeep and living expenses.

As the relationship between Sterling and Stiviano has apparently finally begun unwinding in recent months, there have been a series of lawsuits and public comments. Who knows the nature of the relationship between Sterling and Stiviano behind closed doors? However, anyone with two eyes and half a brain can take a look at the old man worth a fortune, the 20-something bikini model, and add it up to the typical gold digger getting whatever she can from a rich, old man. And also, a rich old man getting whatever he can from a bikini model thanks to his wealth. It’s a very old story.

However, while much is wrong with Donald Sterling using his wealth in this manner, and much is wrong with V. Stiviano using her feminine charms in this manner, those are basically character flaws. The problem that has emerged thanks to the recording is a deeper one, the problem of racism.

That any human being, wealthy or not, has a problem with their close friends, even their intimate relationship partners, simply being seen in public, posing for innocent pictures, posting those on social media, and in general simply associating with members of any minority racial, ethnic, or religious community is appalling.

Why would Donald Sterling, or anyone else of that matter, care at all that V. Stiviano or any other human being is posing for pictures at a ball game with a black celebrity, an Asian fan, a Hispanic ballplayer, or any other human being who is from any non-white background?

Now don’t get me wrong, I am far from naive. We all have our prejudices. We all have our faults. But if you ever see a friend or family member hanging out with someone of another race, posting pictures with friends of other racial or ethnic backgrounds, or engaging in a relationship with someone of another race and actually feel something offensive inside, then the problem is with you, not with them.

And this problem is not going to go away simply with a bunch of lectures from public figures, or with any amount of blog articles. It is going to lessen only when the great majority of people in every single race, ethnicity, and religion stop looking at others with a label, and start looking at each person as an individual human being.

What’s wrong with Donald Sterling? Frankly, a lot of things. But most certainly that he is a racist. And guess what? News flash: he is far from the only one out here. And that number does not only include whites, it includes members of every racial, ethnic, religious, and sexual background that you can name. Judge Donald Sterling properly, as he deserves. And then when you are done, take a moment, and take an honest look at yourself as well.

Torii Hunter Plays the Race Card

If you don’t know him very well, let me clue you in on Torii Hunter. He is the centerfielder for the Los Angeles Angels in Major League Baseball. He is one of the most outgoing, engaging, personable players that I have ever seen interviewed in the game. Oh, and he is African-American.

That last part normally wouldn’t matter a hill of beans to me. By the time that I was growing up in the 1970’s, the civil rights battles fought over the previous few decades had left me a sporting landscape to accept as normal and to view and enjoy as a young fan that included players of every race, ethnic background, and nationality.

But in an interview conducted a few weeks ago and released by USA Today on Wednesday as part of a series on the state of baseball today, Hunter revealed a lack of his own understanding on racial issues that is surprising considering his obvious intelligence and his usually keen insight.

In Part III of what is a 5-part ongoing series of articles this week titled “Efforts to develop black talent in USA insufficient”, Hunter opines that the public looks out at black faces playing in the game and incorrectly assumes that they are African-American when in fact they are Latino players. In his words “They’re not us, they’re imposters.”

Hunter then goes on to attempt to make his point by referencing a particular star player. Speaking of his former star teammate Vlad Guerrero, Hunter states “Is he a black player? I say “Come on, he’s Dominican. He’s not black.”

Folks, on this particular issue, Torii Hunter is simply wrong in his thinking and view point. Have you ever seen Vlad Guerrero? The man’s skin color is as dark as the night sky. There is nothing at all wrong with that, of course. But let’s not trivialize this discussion by pointing out who is and is not ‘black’ when the issue is obvious.

Would Torii Hunter then accept an argument, following along with his line of thinking, that I am not ‘white’, but that I am Irish because the majority of my familial heritage is from that country? You mean to tell me that Dominicans can’t also be black? Does Hunter even know what ‘race’ is?

But it’s not just that Hunter makes one slight off-the-cuff remark that might be blown out of proportion. He goes on to explain in detail that he, and in his words the majority of African-American players, believe that baseball intentionally tries to use Latino players as an “imitator and pass them off as us.”

“It’s like they had to get some kind of dark faces, so they go to the Dominican or Venezuela because you can get them cheaper.” In making comments such as this, and in actually thinking like this, Torii Hunter and any other player or fan who cares about the game who buys into this line of thinking is only doing the genuine issue a disservice.

The genuine issue is an apparent dearth of African-American players at the Major League level in today’s game. It has been noted by everyone involved in the game, from baseball writers to fans to team management to the Commissioner’s office that the percentage of African-American players has been in steady decline since the 1970’s.

When I was growing up, I was able to enjoy a large number of outstanding African-American players. Joe Morgan, Willie Stargell, Vida Blue, Fergie Jenkins, Lee Smith, Bill Madlock, Billy Williams, Dusty Baker, Gary Matthews, Dick Allen, George Foster, Dave Parker and many more. Heck, I was even lucky enough to get to watch Hall of Famers Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Frank Robinson, and Willie McCovey play, albeit at the tail end of their lengthy careers.

But to look around today, you almost need a microscope to find an African-American player on your home team active roster in most towns. Here in Philadelphia, we have been blessed with a rarity in having two starting, star-caliber African-American players in the lineup for the past few seasons in Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins.

When the Major Leagues first overcame the ‘color barrier’ with the arrival of Jackie Robinson, a wave of ex-Negro Leaguers and emerging African-American talent swelled their representative ranks to the point where, by 1983, a little more than 1 in every 4 Major Leaguers was African-American. By 2006, that number had slipped from more than 25% to just 8.4% of players at the highest level.

Now that is certainly a number that, on it’s face, would seem to indicate that something alarming has taken place. But has it really? Is Torii Hunter correct in his belief that baseball has a prejudice against African-American players? Hardly, and any fair examination of the issue would reveal that the problem is not as bad as it seems.

First of all, let’s see where those jobs have gone. A small percentage have gone to Asian players. The fact is that there was almost no Asian presence in Major League Baseball 2-3 decades ago and earlier. Today with the opening and expanding of international competition, approximately 2.5% of players are of Asian racial origins.

The actual percentage of ‘white’ players has stayed pretty much the same, even gone down slightly. The majority of the jobs lost to African-American players have gone to ethnically Latino players. But while Hunter’s accusation is that Major League Baseball has gone for the Latino players from other nations “because you can get them cheaper“, the fact is that is simply not the case.

In South American nations such as those he highlights in Venezuela and the Dominican Republic as well as in other Caribbean nations such as Cuba and Puerto Rico, baseball is king and it is played year round. Kids are born and raised on baseball diamonds of the genuine and makeshift variety. They talk, eat, and dream baseball. And again, they play it all year long thanks to the continuous warm weather.

Here in America it is a fact that among the vast majority of African-American youth, baseball is a distant third to basketball and football in popularity. In his commentary, Hunter states “Why should I get this kid from the South Side of Chicago and have (agent) Scott Boras represent him, and pay him $5 million when you can get a Dominican guy for a bag of chips?”

Well, Torii, for one thing, you can’t find that kid from the South Side of Chicago playing baseball. Not for the most part. He is running the basketball courts indoors for the 9 months out of the year that Chicago is experiencing it’s non-baseball friendly cold weather. The rare player that is talented enough and is interested enough in the game to be good enough to attract pro baseball attention does attract that attention.

Black Americans make up approximately 13% of the population in our country today. If you want everything to be exactly proportional to race, then you need to increase the Major League Baseball talent level of their numbers by just a few percentage points. That is hardly alarming when one considers that white players of any ethnic background make up just about 30% of NBA players and an even lower percentage of NFL players.

There is no rule, and it should not be expected, that every single sport is going to have an exact proportional number of players to the overall population. There are tons of factors, from the better weather in the Caribbean to cultural traditions here in America to expanded scouting in those places and in places such as Japan and Korea that the African-American population in MLB has dropped.

Baseball has not ignored this drop in numbers, however. In fact, it has specifically targeted the African-American community with it’s founding of the RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner-cities) program, a program that it markets aggressively in it’s television advertising.

Just last year, The Institute For Diversity And Ethics In Sport released a report titled “The 2009 Racial and Gender Report Card: Major League Baseball” in which it gave MLB a grade of ‘A’ for ‘Race’ and ‘B’ for ‘Gender’ as categories. The report noted that in 2009 the African-American player percentage increased for the first time since 1995.

The IDES report also stated that MLB began the 2009 season with 10 ‘managers of color’ at the helm of their on-field operations. The report stated that, led by Commissioner Bud Selig’s efforts, “MLB continues to have an outstanding record for Diversity Initiatives which include the third annual Civil Rights Game, Jackie Robinson Day and Roberto Clemente Day.”

The statistics do not lie. The percentage of African-American players in MLB is admittedly down over the past few decades. But people like Torii Hunter who resort to typical race-baiting comments whenever there is any appearance that black Americans might be getting slighted in some way do nothing but harm.

In fact, Torii Hunter and every single major African-American today who wants to see their racial population increase in the game would be better served in not pointing fingers elsewhere, but instead in getting out there on a regular basis in their community, directly inspiring with their presence and investing in that effort with a portion of the tens of millions of dollars that they are earning.

Major League Baseball and every other professional sport have one responsibility. That is to put the best, most entertaining product on the field, court, pitch, rink, or diamond that it possibly can. To suggest that any of them would ignore a source of potential talent is ludicrous. But then it has always been easier to point ones finger at others than to roll up your own sleeves and get to work, or to write your own check.

Sorry, Torii Hunter. You’re a good guy, and you’re usually a great ambassador for the sport of baseball. But this time you’re simply wrong. Leave the race-baiting comments to the Al Sharpton’s of the country, and get yourself and your fellow African-American players more directly involved in an organized, aggressive way within your communities if you want to have a real, positive impact.

No Monkeying Around With Obama

To say that the world has gone overboard with political correctness is an understatement, and this is nowhere more visible than in the world of editorial cartoons.

You learned in recent years that you can’t draw an editorial cartoon of the Islamic prophet Muhammed without risk of being shot dead, blown up or decapitated by some radical Islamic lunatic.

Having a sense of humor is an integral part of the human experience. And in democratic societies, freedom of speech including a free press is a vital piece of our civilization puzzle.

But it’s not just the radical Islamic world that has lost its collective sense of humor, or at the very least its willingness to allow sarcastic expression. The more radical members of the black community here in America are at it again as well. Write or draw something that those people don’t like, and they are all over you like white on rice.

Oops, did I call them ‘those people’? Better be careful, they might find something to take as a personal affront in a few typewritten words. I might get a letter from the NAACP and some choice comments from Al Sharpton.

Last week a woman in Connecticut was severely mauled when her friend’s pet chimpanzee got loose and attacked her. A frantic call went out to 9-1-1, and the responding police officers were faced with the chimpanzee attacking them. They had no choice but to shoot the animal dead. It was a major story all over the network news.

Another major story in the news recently has been the alleged ‘stimulus’ bill that the majority of Americans were against, but which President Barack Obama and his Democratic Party cohorts in Congress decided to ram down our throats anyway.

Into the fray stepped cartoonist Sean Delonis, a famed satirist who took the big monkey story and decided to merge it with the stimulus bill story.

Delonis drew an editorial cartoon which was published by the New York Post which depicted the police officer, gun still smoking, in the immediate aftermath with the dead chimp lying on the ground in front of him in a puddle of blood. In the caption the cop is saying: “They’ll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill.”

Uh, oh, look out. The first black President in American history leads the effort to foist a ridiculous spending bill on the people, and automatically the monkey shot last week is a representation of him when drawn as a cartoon in a spoof by poor Sean Delonis.

The ‘Reverend Al’ led the charge of the race-baiters, as usual, with his statement that “..given the historic racist attacks on African-Americans as being synonymous with monkeys…one has to question whether the cartoonist is making a less than casual reference to this..” 

Really, Reverend Al? And why is that? Why does anyone have to ask that question at all?

The fact is that this was a brilliant incorporation of one big story into another by Delonis, who has solid credentials and whose work is widely respected in the industry.

The very same race-baiters who had no comment to make when Chris Brown punched out Rihanna, perpetuating yet another negative stereotype within the African-American community, look for a way to undermine any attack on ‘Saint Barack’ and his programs and policies.

They are so tied up in forcing his success that they cannot allow the small criticisms, and editorial cartoons are indeed small, that President Bush had to experience for the entirety of his eight years in office.

From his being from Texas in particular and the South in general, from his use of the word ‘nuceuler’ instead of ‘nuclear’, to a thousand other things, President Bush was skewered and pilloried for almost a decade, just as President Clinton was for almost a decade before that.

Here is the fact: Barack Obama is the President of the United States of America, and as such he is subject to editorial attacks in cartoons, on television programs, and every other media outlet. It comes with the job, which requires the thickest of skins, no matter that skin color.

Sometimes the commentary will be biting and difficult for he and his supporters to stomach, and sometimes it will be downright funny to even the most frequent ‘liberal Kool Aid’ drinkers.

The New York Post is owned by Rupert Murdoch’s Newscorp, the parent company of Fox News, a frequent basher of Obama and certainly the one major news outlet that has not been his cheerleader. Sharpton and the race-baiters hate Fox, and this may be part of the problem.

The fact is that Obama’s plans, policies, programs, and politics are as up for attack as any of Bush’s or Clinton’s were in the past.

Oh, and Reverend Al and friends, not every reference to the word ‘black’, not every banana peeled, not every watermelon eaten, not every child abandoned, not every woman beaten, not every monkey shot dead will be any kind of racial reference.

Toughen up, Obama supporters, or it’s gonna be a long, hard four years for you people.

Arrogant and ignorant and guilty as sin

Orenthal James Simpson, the jury in this matter finds you guilty! Guilty, OJ! No smiles for you. No smirks this time. No look of shocked disbelief on your face that you had beaten the system.

Thirteen years ago, former football star and celebrity O.J. Simpson got away with murder. I remember that day well, and listening to the verdict on a car radio while most of America watched it on television.

I couldn’t see it on TV because my then-fiancee Debbie and I were driving home from an appointment involving our wedding, which at that point was just four days away.

As the foreperson prepared to read the verdict we pulled over, and somewhere around Cottman Avenue and Roosevelt Boulevard, sitting in our car, we heard those incredibly unjust words.

Simpson had beaten the charges of murdering his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and a young man named Ron Goldman. He had nearly decapitated the mother of his children, and had gotten away with it thanks to an incredibly inept prosecution and a high-powered, highly competent, and expensive defense team.

Reaction to the verdict once again highlighted the racial disparity of America. Almost to a one, white Americans saw the verdict for the true injustice that it was. A cold-blooded killer with a history of spousal abuse had finally killed the woman, and now a jury had let him off despite overwhelming evidence of his guilt.

The large majority of black Americans instead cheered the verdict. They did so not as much for any belief in the innocence of O.J. himself, but because, as they saw it, an African-American had beaten a justice system that many of them felt had wrongly convicted innumerable blacks over the course of its history.

A black man had beaten the unjust system was how they saw it, and his own personal actions be damned. Of course that should be an embarrassing position for any black American to take. That is particularly so for any black woman who has ever been the victim of abuse and intimidation from a black man.

In any event, Simpson got away with murder that day. However, a civil jury in a later court action found him appropriately liable for the killings, and choked off his financial resources.

For his part, Simpson said that he would begin a search for “the real killers”, and publicly set about said search on golf courses across America. He even had the unmitigated gall to write a book titled “I Did It” in which he described how he committed the murders.

The courts confiscated the book rights and turned them over to the families of the murder victims. Thus what was finally titled “If I Did It” was published, with proceeds going to the victim families. But Simpson himself continued to walk the golf courses of America for more than a decade as a free man.

In the recent case for which he has been found guilty, a verdict came down exactly 13 years to the day after his previous ‘not guilty’ verdict in the murder trial. It involved a completely separate incident.

Simpson was loaded for bear with a handgun when he and some associates raided a Las Vegas hotel room in an effort to take items of sports memorabilia which he claimed were his own. The jury in this case found him guilty of robbery and related charges which included the weapons charges.

This week, a judge sentenced the now 61-year old Simpson to between nine and 33 years in prison. In admonishing him after the sentencing, she stated that she could not tell during the trial if Simpson was “arrogant or ignorant, or both” and stated that she now knew the answer. That answer, of course, was that he is both.

The man known as ‘The Juice’ then squeezed out a few crocodile tears as he continued to proclaim his innocence. The fact of the matter is that O.J. Simpson is guilty as sin, and the fact that he was walking around for the last 13 years was a travesty of justice to Americans, an insult to the Brown and Goldman families, and an inexcusable spit on the graves of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman themselves.

That the arrogant and ignorant criminal murderer finally tripped up in his life to the extent that he could not wiggle his way out of it finally begins to set things right.

The two trials were unrelated, had nothing to do with one another, and yet it doesn’t feel that way. It feels as if justice is finally being served. It feels as if a murderous killer who thumbed his nose at society is finally going to face the truth of a life behind bars that is the minimum he deserves.

As Goldman’s father said yesterday, the verdict will not bring Ron and Nicole back. But what it does is put a killer where he belongs, behind bars, and for a long time.

Here is to hoping that he spends the rest of his life there before he has to stand before the ultimate judge at the end of his life. At that point, a billion Johnny Cochrane’s won’t help him escape final judgment.