Cincinnati Enquire

ESPN Resurrects Marge Schott Debate


For reasons unbeknownst to anyone outside of Bristol, Connecticut ESPN the world wide leader in sports, entertainment and controversy decided it was well in time to exhume the Marge Schott story and share it with the world.

Marge Schott died in 2004 five years after selling controlling interest in the Reds for $67M to a group led by Cincinnati businessman Carl Linder. The timing of the Marge Schott story though is bewildering to anyone in Cincinnati. Sure 10 years is an anniversary but does it deserve national attention and a featured piece on ESPN’s Sportscenter and Outside The Lines?

The point of the ESPN piece was to follow or rather listen to actor Luke Perry go on a journey to find out who Marge Schott was. Instead of finding out who the woman truly was ESPN instead to focus solely on the racist portion that was Marge Schott’s life. Now what Schott said is unacceptable in any workplace, in no way am I condoning what she said. Although if you present one side of the story you have to explore the other.

Schott was known for saying things in public and admitting to things said in private without having any shame. Marge was a woman in a male dominated sport, a woman who grew up during the 30′s and 40′s, a woman who lived through the civil rights movement. That does not justify what she said, you just have to take everything into account.

There was one incident in particular that everyone knows about when it comes to Marge Schott. That would be the Eric Davis & Dave Parker incident where Schott referred to them as the “Million Dollar Nig—s.” No player should be subjected to that sort of discrimination.

Schott was also known for her Jewish, Japanese and Gay slurs on top of her pro-Hitler sentiments as well. When ESPN says pro-Hitler Schott never referred to the Holocaust as a good thing, only that when Hitler first took power he did do some things right in terms of infrastructure and social programs. She said that merely from a historical standpoint, but context didn’t fit the ESPN story.

Portions of the ESPN story are infuriating, written by someone who isn’t from Cincinnati. Writer Mike Bass lost me with this line. “She was so enmeshed in the city that the slurs could be excused, tolerated, even accepted.” While I was merely a little kid during the Schott years the city certainly did not accept what she said. Once, sure people can accept that, twice no people grew tired of that.

The article and story did get one thing right, Schott would not have survived today. In the age of social media and fake outrage over the most minuscule things Schott would have been ate alive. But she wasn’t the owner during this time period.

What the story and everyone seems to forget when they talk about Marge Schott and her racism is all of the great things she did for this city. Her philanthropy throughout the city is still visible to this day. Her foundation has donated millions to schools in the Cincinnati Area. Cincinnati Children’s Hospital has been the recipient of donations from Marge, the Cincinnati Zoo was also high on Schott’s list. The Boy Scouts of America can thank Schott for a summer camp and a phenomenal Council Building in Cincinnati. Not to mention following her death her foundation continued her tradition of supporting The University of Cincinnati by sponsoring the Bearcats new baseball stadium.

There has been talk over the last year about changing the name of the baseball stadium. In the ESPN article new Bearcats head coach Ty Neal talks about the stadium and the name. Personally I have sat in on some discussion with student groups that want to change the name. While I understand both sides, you can not change the name. Remember the good side of Marge Schott, not the cringe worthy side.

The most telling part of this story is the fact that all of her former African-American players have forgiven her. Schott had a way with people, dropping a “honey” after everything she said. Eric Davis says that made it hard to hate her, he and Schott became friends in fact, one of the few people she called by name.

Now it makes sense why ESPN ran this story. It had nothing to do with Marge Schott, the city of Cincinnati or or anything else. This story was ran in the middle of the “n-word debate” and in the middle of the discussion about gay players in sports. Both of those issues are prominent in this story, ESPN managed to work in two extremely relevant topics into a so-so piece about Marge Schott.

Once again Cincinnati gets drug through the mud. Marge Schott was who she was, 10 years after her death nothing about her has changed, the perception of her hasn’t changed. You either love her or hate her but in 24 hours everyone will have forgotten about her again so what does any of this really even mean?

Tags: Cincinnati Reds ESPN Featured Marge Schott Popular