March 21, 2011
Pity the poor Baltimore Orioles. They are having a lousy offseason when it comes to persons either figuratively or literally wearing their team's jersey and saying ignorant comments.
Now this: On Sunday, Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon called for security at the Rays spring ballpark to eject a fan who had shouted racist comments directed at B.J. Upton(notes) as he sat in the dugout.
The offending fan happened to be wearing an Orioles jersey.
O's collective facepalm in 3... 2... 1.
Here's what Marc Topkin wrote in the St. Pete Times:
"He said something racial and I didn't like it,'' Maddon said. "He can say whatever he wants, but don't go there. And I didn't want B.J. to go up into the stands or do anything at that point. So I just wanted to make sure he was taken out of there. There is no room for that at all.''
A man who said he was the ejected fan went on Twitter later Sunday, claiming Maddon lied and he said nothing racial.
Maddon later told the Times what was said, and it would be considered racial. Upton also heard the comments, as did several of the coaches.
It should be noted: A man claiming to be the ejected fan says he is innocent and Maddon is lying.
With so many earwitnesses, it's hard to buy the guy's story that Maddon is not only mistaken, but he also is undertaking a great lie to cover up the mistake. Sounds to me more like a guy who is upset he got caught.
Not only was Maddon sticking up for Upton and the other ballplayers of color on the Rays (and Orioles), he was sticking up for anyone who heard the comments and was offended. If I'm at a hypothetical baseball park with my hypothetical kid, I don't want to hear player criticisms include trash such as racial slurs.
I'd like to think that others — fans, I mean — within earshot of what was said also would have involved security. Hopefully this will encourage zero tolerance from others in the future when someone goes above and beyond their free speech. Most of us, probably, have heard it happen at least once.
Now, the racist comments from Sunday and what Scott said at the winter meetings are not the same thing. You can believe lots of false things about Barack Obama and not necessarily be racist. Regardless, the Orioles put distance between the organization and Luke Scott after he opened his mouth.
I don't know if they have to do likewise this time. What should they say? "The Orioles aren't racist"?
Well, maybe it's not the worst thing you could say.