Naming stadium after Marshall would be supreme

July 02, 1991|By Milton Kent 22TC | Milton Kent 22TC,Evening Sun Staff

At some point, preferably before they begin to play there next year, the Orioles and the Maryland Stadium Authority will decide on a name for the new downtown stadium that will offend as few people as possible.

The names that have been tossed through the fray to date have generated their own heat or indifference, but not a solid consensus, as each have their own pluses and minuses.

There is a stadium name that would speak volumes of the Orioles, the city and the state, and make a definitive and positive statement about what we aspire for our society to be:

Thurgood Marshall Stadium.

Normally, it is good to separate the worlds of politics and sports, though, increasingly, as seen in the process that led to the construction of the stadium, the worlds blur.

And that has worked in the naming of the 103 professional sports stadiums and arenas across the country, as only Washington's Robert F. Kennedy Stadium, the Harry S Truman Sports Complex [Arrowhead and Royals stadiums] in Kansas City, Minneapolis' Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome and the Brendan Byrne Arena at the Meadowlands carry the names of political figures.

But, in this case, the blurring is entirely appropriate, since Marshall is undoubtedly one of the 20th century's most significant historical figures.

Martin Luther King vocalized the hopes and aspirations of black Americans, but it was Marshall, as the lead NAACP attorney in the Brown vs. Board of Education case that destroyed the legality of discrimination, that put those hopes in motion.

Marshall, who entered Howard University law school because the law school at the University of Maryland wouldn't admit him because he was black, rose above the indignities of his childhood and the early days of his adult life, to crush the vehicle that had oppressed his forebearers for so many years.

And, then, as the nation's first and only black member of the Supreme Court and, to date, the highest ranking black to serve in the government of the United States, Marshall was involved in decisions that have profoundly shaped American society.

During his 24 years on the bench, Marshall, who announced his intention to retire from the high court last week, cast votes on the most important issues of the day, including abortion, civil rights and public and private discrimination.

And for the sake of argument about the propriety of naming a Baltimore stadium after a national figure, Marshall was born and grew up on Druid Hill Avenue in West Baltimore.

There are those who will argue that Marshall's name would be better placed attached to a highway, or a courthouse or other civic facility.

Perhaps, but if we can name sports facilities after former presidents, vice presidents, senators and governors, surely we can honor the nation's first black Supreme Court justice in a similar lasting fashion.

Besides, there has been no area of the American experience where blacks and whites have more successfully melded together than sports, where the differences of race, creed and religious origin are usually swept aside for a common purpose.

That is precisely the kind of society that Marshall strove so long and hard for.

The Orioles and the state can make an important symbolic step toward that goal by naming the new baseball park after one of the 20th century's true giants, Baltimore's own Thurgood Marshall.

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