Hall of Fame Uses Baseball as Weapon Against Political Dissent


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People For the American Way President and lifelong baseball fan Ralph G. Neas today called on Dale Petroskey, President of the Baseball Hall of Fame, to reconsider his decision to cancel a celebration of the classic baseball movie “Bull Durham” because Petroskey disagreed with the political activism of actors Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon.

Neas wrote in a letter to Petroskey, “Baseball is one of the great American traditions. But an even greater and longer American tradition is the right of free speech. The ability to speak one’s mind freely and without fear is a freedom for which Americans are admired and envied by people the world over. Members of our armed forces are willing to put their lives on the line in order to preserve such freedoms, not to encourage their abandonment.”

“Silencing dissent is not the American way,” Neas wrote, noting that Petroskey has justified his decision by claiming it was wrong for Robbins and Sarandon to criticize the president in wartime. “It is a profoundly patriotic act for Americans to speak out when they believe that official actions are not true to the nation’s highest ideals or not in the nation’s best interest.”

Neas noted that Petroskey’s moves unintentionally demonstrated the timeliness of another Tim Robbins project. On Monday, April 14, Robbins will portray on a New York City stage the role of Dalton Trumbo, a Hollywood screenwriter who was sent to prison, blacklisted by the movie industry and denied the ability to earn a livelihood because he refused to succumb to the anti-democratic hysteria of the House Committee on Un-American Activities in 1947. The play, Trumbo, is a reminder of what happens when we lose sight of basic American values like freedom of expression, said Neas. Trumbo was produced with the assistance of People For the American Way, which receives a portion of the proceeds.

“Love for baseball transcends politics and every other kind of difference that sometimes separate Americans,” wrote Neas in his letter to Petroskey. “In fact, it may be one of the few things on which ultraconservative columnist George Will and I can wholeheartedly agree (though we might happily spend many hours debating the relative merits of the Boston Red Sox and the Chicago Cubs). Tragically, you have decided to sacrifice this broad appeal to make baseball an instrument of politics, and worse than that, a weapon of reprisal against free speech and dissent.”