Ma­jor League Baseball has lost its virtue

The News-Times - - OPINION -

Cindy Hyde-Smith, a Repub­li­can ap­pointed by Gov. Phil Bryant of Mis­sis­sippi in March to re­place U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran (who re­signed for health rea­sons) faced Mike Espy, a Demo­crat, in the Nov. 27 runoff elec­tion and the fi­nal tally shows her to be the win­ner.

Dur­ing the cam­paign, news re­ports sur­faced that Hy­deSmith, voiced the fol­low­ing com­ment, “If there were a pub­lic hang­ing, I would be there in the front row.” Here is the chronol­ogy of events that pro­ceeded her com­ment:

Nov. 2: Com­ment made at cam­paign rally. The com­ment stirred up the painful his­tory of lynch­ings in Mis­sis­sippi and else­where.

Nov. 6: Hyde-Smith is heard on video say­ing that her com­ment would be “a great idea” and that she would hap­pily sit in the front row for pub­lic hang­ings.

Nov. 2 -6: Around the time that in­flam­ma­tory com­ments by Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mis­sis­sippi in­vok­ing pub­lic hang­ings sur­faced on video, Ma­jor League Baseball (MLB) do­nated $5,000 to her cam­paign.

Since MLB con­trib­uted, fur­ther re­ports have be­come known show­ing Hyde-Smith’s sup­port for the Con­fed­er­acy. In a pho­to­graph on her Face­book page, she is shown wear­ing the cap of a Con­fed­er­ate sol­dier and hold­ing a mus­ket. The cap­tion reads, “Mis­sis­sippi his­tory at its best.”

Nov. 23: The Hyde-Smith cam­paign re­ported its con­tri­bu­tions to the Fed­eral Elec­tion Com­mis­sion.

Nov. 24: After word of the do­na­tion was re­vealed — the max­i­mum le­gal amount — MLB asked for the money back, three weeks after the pub­lic hang­ing com­ments were made. MLB says the do­na­tion was made ear­lier in the month at a po­lit­i­cal event by MLB lob­by­ists who were un­aware of her re­marks.

Nov. 25: The MLB jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for mak­ing the orig­i­nal do­na­tion re­lated to sev­eral ini­tia­tives to pro­mote di­ver­sity and in­clu­sion in its sport. “The con­tri­bu­tion was made in con­nec­tion with an event that MLB lob­by­ists were asked to attend,” an MLB rep­re­sen­ta­tive said in a state­ment. “MLB has re­quested that the do­na­tion be re­turned.”

Many of Hyde-Smith’s com­ments, some of which she has apol­o­gized for or at­tempted to ex­plain, con­tra­dict MLB’s prior stance on di­ver­sity in Ma­jor League Baseball, per the fol­low­ing that is reprinted di­rectly from the MLB web­site about Jackie Robin­son’s legacy and con­tri­bu­tions to Ma­jor League Baseball and to Amer­i­can so­ci­ety:

“MLB has hon­ored Jackie Robin­son on April 15 since 2004, and it has been cus­tom­ary since 2009 for ev­ery per­son in uni­form to wear Robin­son’s No. 42 on the field.

On April 15, 2018, MLB cel­e­brated the 71st an­niver­sary of Jackie Robin­son Day, which marks the day Jackie Robin­son broke the color bar­rier in 1947. It re­flects on Robin­son’s de­but with the Brooklyn Dodgers to be­come the first African Amer­i­can player in league his­tory.

In ad­di­tion to don­ning No. 42, each player will also wear hats with a spe­cial patch hon­or­ing Robin­son ...

Ac­cord­ing to MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez, pro­ceeds from the sale of Jackie Robin­son Day ap­parel will be do­nated to the Jackie Robin­son Foun­da­tion, which pro­vides fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance to col­lege stu­dents

Among the big­gest high­lights will be the an­nual in­volve­ment of Robin­son’s fam­ily. Robin­son’s widow, Rachel, and his chil­dren, Sharon and David, will make an ap­pear­ance at Citi Field for Sun­day’s game be­tween the New York Mets and Mil­wau­kee Brew­ers.

Robin­son spent his 10-year MLB ca­reer play­ing in New York for the then-Brooklyn Dodgers, and he re­mains a revered fig­ure in the city.

No. 42 is the only num­ber that is re­tired across MLB, and Jackie Robin­son Day is the one day of the year where fans will see it in re­mem­brance of one of the sport’s great­est trail­blaz­ers.”

The only con­clu­sion that I have been able to ra­tio­nal­ize for MLB’s ac­tions re­lated to do­nat­ing to a politi­cian that smears and dis­re­spects Jackie Robin­son’s honor and rep­u­ta­tion in the man­ner that it has acted dur­ing the past few weeks is that MLB has lost its virtue.

Michael M. Ego is a pro­fes­sor of Hu­man De­vel­op­ment and Fam­ily Stud­ies at the Univer­sity of Con­necti­cut, Stam­ford, and teaches the course, “Baseball in So­ci­ety: Pol­i­tics, Eco­nom­ics, Race and Gen­der.”

Around the time that in­flam­ma­tory com­ments by Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mis­sis­sippi in­vok­ing pub­lic hang­ings sur­faced on video, Ma­jor League Baseball (MLB) do­nated $5,000 to her cam­paign.

Chris O’Meara / AP

Mem­bers of the New York Yan­kees wear No. 42 in honor of Jackie Robin­son dur­ing the Na­tional An­them be­fore an MLB game against the Tampa Bay Rays on April 15, 2009 in St. Peters­burg, Fla.

Ro­ge­lio V. So­lis / As­so­ci­ated Press

Repub­li­can U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, speaks to sup­port­ers as she cel­e­brates her runoff win over Demo­crat Mike Espy in Jack­son, Mis­sis­sippi last month.

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