9-year-old girl calls out MLB, Chuck E. Cheese over game's degrading softball taunt

Yahoo Sports Contributor
Yahoo Sports

Marie Marcum, 9, didn’t appreciate it when an MLB-licensed game she played at a suburban Chicago Chuck E. Cheese blurted out “there’s always softball” in taunting fashion. Now she’s looking for answers and asking for changes after penning a letter directly to Major League Baseball.

According to ESPN, Marcum, who’s played softball since she was four, was furious when a missed throw resulted in a degrading programmed taunt insinuating that her sport was not on the same level as baseball.

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“It made me feel like they think softball is a bad sport and girls shouldn’t play softball,” she said. “I just started throwing balls at the game as hard as I could. I thought it was rude.”

Her mom originally suggested she write a letter to the game manufacturer, Innovative Concepts in Entertainment (ICE). It was her uncle that noticed the game was covered in MLB logos and was clearly an MLB-licensed game. That turned Marcum’s focus to alerting MLB.

Marie Marcum’s message to MLB

Marcum wasted no time putting her thoughts on paper. After returning home Monday night, she penned her letter to MLB with a clear message in mind.

“I wanted to tell someone how mad and upset I was and let them know what they could do to fix the game and make it better,” she told ESPN.

Marcum says her anger was fueled by how other young girls might take the taunting, and how it might shape their opinion of softball. She says she’s trying to encourage her young cousin to give softball a chance, but if taken to heart a message that insinuates “throwing like a girl” is an insult could push young girls away from the sport.

MLB offer supportive response

Though it hasn’t yet received Marcum’s letter, the league has spoken out in support of her message.

“We love Marie’s passion for softball and her view that softball is just as great as baseball,” an MLB statement read. “Through our PLAY BALL program, growing youth softball has remained a priority for MLB, equally as important as growing youth baseball.”

“MLB does not support the message conveyed in the game and we are reaching out to the company to share our concerns about it.”

The league also intends to contact Marcum’s family.

A 9-year-old girl seeks answers and changes from MLB, Chuck E. Cheese after hearing game’s “there’s always softball” taunt. (AP)
A 9-year-old girl seeks answers and changes from MLB, Chuck E. Cheese after hearing game’s “there’s always softball” taunt. (AP)

Chuck E. Cheese puts game on mute

Chuck E. Cheese is also well aware of the story.  On Wednesday, a representative said the company has formally requested that the manufacturer (ICE) remove the taunt “to support everyone’s love of play.” In the meantime, the game will be muted in all Chuck E. Cheese stores.

“We’re thankful to Marie for bringing this to our attention and agree — play and sports are for everyone.”

ICE president Joe Coppola said his company will honor requests to remove the audio track from the game.

Manufacturer calls it first known complaint

Coppola says that ICE manufactured the game for two years beginning in 2009, and that there are thousands of versions of this specific game currently in the marketplace. With that in mind, he says this is the first time he’s heard a complaint that centered around of the game’s taunts.

“I completely understand where she is coming from,” Coppola said. “I get it. There is probably a greater sensitivity today than there was 10 or 15 years ago. It’s something we all need to pay attention to.”

Some people will say it’s just a silly game that means no harm. That might be true to an extent. But those words clearly had an impact on Marie Marcum. Most importantly, she was not afraid to have her voice be heard. The latter is the aspect her mother, Lisa, is most proud of.

“I’m just so proud of her. She did this all on her own. The one thing I hope she remembers from this is if there is something she feels strongly about in the future, she will remember that people want to hear her. If nothing else, this will encourage her to speak up.”

It’s a powerful reminder that many times it only takes one voice to start a positive movement.

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