Political Commentary

by Ken Welch

June 14, 1996

When the Schott is a Dud, Who Cares?

Let's think about a less than extremely serious matter for a moment. A few days ago, the controlling owner of the Cincinnati Reds major league baseball team agreed to accept penalties imposed by the league that prohibit her from involvement in the running of her ball club.
The suspension through the 1998 baseball season is the result of a series of remarks Marge Schott has made in past months. Reportedly, these remarks have been critical of Jews, Asian Americans, and even working women. Considerable discussion has ensued over her saying Adolf Hitler started out good but then went crazy.
While the media and owners of other baseball teams in the league were quite concerned about the comments, informal and non-scientific surveys indicate the majority of the people-in-the-street in Cincinnati, and in the ball park, think the punishment was not necessary and that there was too much made of her comments. Some talk about her freedom of speech, others of her ignorance, but it seems that perhaps only a minority think she deserved the punishment the league handed her.
How many of you can remember the last time you looked at a sports franchise owner as a history professor? How many times have you considered such a sports figure a reasoned sociologist to whose comments great credibility should be attached? If you can remember any, that's probably too many.
While the "rights" of citizens of the United States of American in a legal sense are not involved (the Constitution prohibits government's restrictions on free speech, not private enterprise's), the philosophy is. A founding concept is that the free flow of ideas and debate of those ideas helps to inform and assists in the making of wiser decisions.
So let Marge Schott speak to any issue she wishes and hold any viewpoint she wants, without intervention by major league baseball. Anyone who gives substantial weight to her comments regarding figures in history, our social condition in the USA, or science, for example, is showing a greater ignorance than that which her critics say she has demonstrated. Let's get real. This is a baseball owner, who, as far as I know, has never offered any credentials in any of these areas. One might as well ask a air conditioning repair person about foreign policy. Now there's nothing wrong with that question to anyone, and the answer from anyone might be enlightened and worthy of exploration, maybe even brilliant. That's for the listeners to decide. The answers might also be based on ignorance and poor reasoning. Now if someone wanted to give greater consideration to Marge Schott's ideas about running a baseball team, business in general, or investing, that might be another matter entirely.
Trying to restrict peoples' ideas and comments in our society by formal penalties is unwarranted. Simply give poor ideas no weight. Let society shun them if it is such a terrible comment. Forget the formal penalties, that's just as foolish as any poorly reasoned thoughts the "offender" may have expressed, and it's a contradiction to the philosophy we say we hold dear.
Who is Marge Schott? She's a baseball franchise owner. So who cares about whatever commentary she has about history or sociology? Unless she provides a basis for her comments with sound reasoning, nobody should. That includes the other baseball team owners and the league. Her own ideas and thoughts on subjects other than baseball are none of their business. They should ignore them if they are unworthy. And so should we all.

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