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Tampa Bay Rays mascot holds inappropriate Steve Irwin sign

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Someone went to the trouble of making an insensitive sign associating deceased "Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin and the Tampa Bay Rays. Further, the team's furry blue mascot — known as Raymond — acted as a semi-witting accomplice by holding up the sign at a Rays game at Tropicana Field on Wednesday.

The sign was a Rays "To Do List," comprised of a team logo and two, numbered items: Getting to the World Series and, the sign would have us infer, killing Steve Irwin. Irwin, who of course was killed by a stingray in 2006, sinisterly had his name crossed off the list.

Say it ain't so, Raymond!

None of the rays who swim in the tank beyond the center-field fence at the Trop have ever been actually linked to Irwin's death; this simply was a fan's joke/conspiracy theory gone afoul.

The club responded with a statement Thursday:

“Last night Rays mascot Raymond was handed an inappropriate sign brought to the game by a fan. Fans are welcome to bring signs into Tropicana Field provided they are not offensive. The Tampa Bay Rays regret that this particular sign was displayed in the ballpark, and we apologize for the lapse in judgment.”

Many of us, even most of us, have made an insensitive joke or two that, upon later reflection, was an especially bad idea once spoken out loud. (Regrets? I've got a few.) But the Rays, who are in the business of making friends and trying to influence people so they get an agreeable stadium deal somewhere, recognize that the sign falls beyond the boundaries of good taste.

And I don't think it's fair to blame the person inside (SPOILERS) of Raymond.

Those costumes are known to be uncomfortable. And it's hard to see in there, if you've ever worn a mascot's head. The person inside probably saw a fan with a sign and decided to hold it up — because that's what mascots do — without really getting a good look. And perhaps, in the moments after Raymond held the sign, he/she inside realized that it was not appropriate and scolded the sign-maker for creating something out of bounds. I'd like to think so, anyway.

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