New YORK (Nov. 2)
Marge Schott received a hero’s welcome Monday as she returned to the Cincinnati Reds, and now the local Jewish community is waiting to see if she has changed her offensive ways.
Schott, owner of the National League baseball team, was fined $25,000, given an eightmonth suspension and ordered to attend a diversity-sensitivity seminar by major league baseball’s executive council last February after a national outcry arose over anti-Semitic and racist remarks she made.
At the time. Schott acknowledged that she had used the terms “money-grubbing Jews,” “nigger” and “Japs,” and that she kept a Nazi swastika armband at home, although she said she “never thought of it as anything offensive.”
“I have no evidence one way or the other that she’s changed,” said Michael Rapp, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Cincinnati.
“It took her 60-some years to get to be this way, and she won’t change because she sat through some diversity program.
“But I hope she’s learned enough not to articulate her prejudice in public,” Rapp said. “If she’s done that, we’re ahead of the game.”
Eight months after being suspended, her staff and friends welcomed Schott back to Cincinnati’s Riverfront Stadium with cheers and “Hail to the Chief” at a balloon-and banner-festooned party.
“They treated her as if she were a justreleased prisoner of war, and she did nothing to warrant that kind of accolade,” said Rapp.
He said, however, that her racial slurs led to one positive step. The Reds’ managers also took a several-session diversity training course that prompted them to put together a 10-point action plan to deal better with racial and ethnic issues.
The action agenda includes plans to hire a full-time staff member to deal with human relations issues; an effort to increase the number of minority vendors at the Reds’ stadium; and plans to hold regular staff meetings to improve morale on racial issues.
“It is now our responsibility to make sure they live up to their agreements,” said Rapp. “If they do so, then the Reds are in the position of taking a leadership role in this area in the world of professional sports.”
The Schott imbroglio led the JCRC to work in coalition with the Urban League, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Black Male Coalition and the Cincinnati Human Relations Commission.
Local representatives of Japanese American groups were missing from that coalition, said Rapp, because its other members refused to let them participate. That “will always be a source of embarrassment” to me, said Rapp.