My first day of employment in a newspaper office was in mid-August 1963 as a copy boy at the Minneapolis Morning Tribune. I’ve been working in some form for KSTP radio continuously since September 1983.
As I’ve covered and commented on ballgames, I’ve always had confidence that the news side across the way and the TV newsroom downstairs were going to be allowed to take on important and interesting issues to the best of their ability.
I’ve always had confidence that there were ownerships willing to say, “Yes, we’re going to go with it, even if it costs us some readers or viewers or advertisers.”
It was a great moment in Twin Cities journalism in November 2014, when KSTP owner Stan Hubbard was scheduled for an appearance at Augsburg. It was in the middle of the “Pointergate” brouhaha — then-Minneapolis mayor Betsy Hodges was alleged to be making “gang signs” in a photo — and outsiders wondered if Hubbard would show up.
Are you kidding me? He faced down the protesters demanding an “apology,” reinforcing to them that an independent newsroom was more important than noise.
I don’t think newspapers and TV stations should be out there on their own in occasionally sacrificing profit and standing up to the noise; it should be all major businesses, and particularly those of high visibility.
Or to put it more clearly: My view is that major league sports leagues and teams — which have fed gluttonously at the public trough — should be expected to take fair-minded stands, even when those might cut into profits.
There are situations hanging over the NFL and Major League Baseball today that show both leagues and all 62 teams to be hostages to a fraction of the billions that they might lose, to have shriveled in fear of the noise.
The situations are very much different, even if the reaction of the leagues has been the same:
• In the NFL, quarterback Colin Kaepernick and safety Eric Reid have been blacklisted over what originally were accepted as non-disruptive protests during the pregame national anthem.
• In baseball, Oregon State pitcher Luke Heimlich, a lefthander deemed by some to be ready for the big leagues now, was blacklisted in the MLB draft by 30 teams for the second consecutive year. He was accused as a 15-year-old of molesting a 6-year-old niece and pleaded guilty to a felony in 2012.
We’ll take the easy one first:
As never before in my lifetime, the notion that employers are allowed to be autocratic in their demands of employees seems popular. That’s what I’ve heard when offering Kaepernick opinions in the past — that he’s representing his company, and therefore must accede to their wishes during the anthem.
I don’t buy it. There is no obligation to stand for the national anthem. It is simply a courtesy that nearly all of us extend.
I stand. Why not? I’ve never been stopped for Driving While Black.
Kaepernick decided to kneel as a silent protest over outrageous police actions toward black Americans that were occurring with frequency. He wasn’t a distraction until the TV cameras found him, and then fans started craning their necks to get a glimpse in order to be offended.
If you’re a worker in this country, and you can watch competent football players — Kaepernick and Reid — go unsigned in an obvious case of blacklisting, and you side with the money-grubbing, parasitic 32 NFL teams, you have given it all up to The Man.
As for MLB and Heimlich, the details are out there. He was 15, she was 6, he admitted guilt in a statement, it was awful, and now he has said it didn’t happen, that it was a plea to avoid trial and possible jail.
I’m more swayed by the guilty plea. What’s certain is that it was a juvenile crime. Researchers say the chances of recurrence after five-plus years of counseling and normalcy are minuscule. By all account, Heimlich’s been quite normal, other than when on the mound.
The zaniest thing I’ve heard is that, if Heimlich is allowed to pitch in professional baseball, it would help to normalize child sex abuse.
Really? Making 25-30 starts a summer for 10-12 years, and every couple of pitches there’s someone in the stands saying to a companion, “That’s that Heimlich, the guy that molested his niece,” would be normalization?
Scott Price did an excellent piece on Heimlich in Sports Illustrated last month. An unnamed Division I coach gave Price the quote that duplicates my thoughts:
“What’s the kid supposed to do now? Kill himself? I have a lot of professional baseball friends who swear they aren’t going to touch him. … What’s he supposed to do?”
Blacklisting Heimlich isn’t a moral stand by MLB and 30 baseball organizations; it’s economic. They are afraid of the noise — just as Commissioner Roger Goodell and 32 NFL teams cowered in financial fear when the noisiest man in America, Donald John Trump, found a few silent anthem protests as an issue to make hay.
Two leagues. Sixty-two teams. Cowards.
Patrick Reusse can be heard 3-6 p.m. weekdays on AM-1500. firstname.lastname@example.org