Schott sorry for 'insensitive' racial remarks

December 10, 1992|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Staff Writer

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Cincinnati Reds president Marge Schot attempted to defuse some of the controversy caused by allegations that she used racial slurs by reading a lengthy and conditional statement of apology early yesterday at baseball's winter meetings.

Schott marched into the media work room at the Galt House Hotel at 8:30 a.m. and read a prepared statement to a handful of reporters and broadcasters, only a few of whom had been notified that she would speak. She expressed regret for insensitive statements, but she also used the opportunity to come to her defense and criticize some of her accusers.

"The past few weeks have been very difficult for me and have caused me a great deal of sorrow," she said. "I have read many things about myself which I and others know are not true. I therefore welcome this opportunity to refute the falsehoods being stated about me by certain people with their own agendas and private interests."

Schott has faced criticism since a former employee charged her with discriminatory hiring practices and a former member of the Oakland Athletics front office said she heard Schott tell other owners on a conference call that she "would rather hire a trained monkey than a nigger."

She denies that the Reds practice discrimination and said that the most damning accusations are false, but she has admitted making some insensitive racial comments.

"I acknowledge that, in the past, I have, on occasion, made insensitive remarks which I now realize hurt others," Schott said. those few occasions, it was my mouth but not my heart speaking.

"For any such remarks which were insensitive, I am profoundly sorry, and I apologize to anyone I hurt. "I can only say that I did not mean them. I love baseball, and if anything I have said caused embarrassment to the game, the Reds, the wonderful fans and city of Cincinnati, I am sorry."

The statement was not part of any agreement with Schott's fellow owners, who have created an investigating committee to examine her behavior and report to Major League Baseball's 11-member Executive Council. The investigation is in progress, but the owners reportedly are attempting to work out a deal in which Schott could avoid a lifetime ban by agreeing to accept a suspension and pay a $250,000 fine.

National League president Bill White reported "modest progress" Tuesday toward such an agreement, but Schott's statement left room to wonder if she will go down without a fight. In it, she announced that she had retained attorney Bob Bennett to represent her interests in the matter.

Ohio Sen. Howard Metzenbaum, who has become a prominent critic of the way baseball is operated and will lead a hearing today on baseball's exemption from antitrust regulations, said he intends to use the Senate Judiciary forum to demand quick action against Schott.

"I'd like to know what baseball intends to do, why it takes them so long," Metzenbaum told the Associated Press.

"I thought that it was a nice apology," he said of Schott's statement. "Thoughts are the thing that concerned me."

Bud Selig, Milwaukee Brewers owner and head of ownership's ruling council, said Schott acted on her own when she addressed the media. He indicated that the owners were moving quickly and carefully to end the scandal.

"I firmly believe the criticism [of Major League Baseball's handling of the situation] is not correct," Selig said. "The procedure we're following is being conducted as expeditiously and as fairly as possible with respect to both sensitivity and due process."

In other words, the Executive Council is moving as fast as it can without sinking baseball into another legal quagmire. The sport only recently unencumbered itself of a series of lawsuits related to the lifetime suspension levied against New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner by former commissioner Fay Vincent.

The owners might have trouble making disciplinary action stand up if it is based on testimony that is uncorroborated, so they have moved quietly to convince Schott to accept a voluntary suspension and fine to avoid any legal challenge.

Selig said that the Schott situation was not discussed at yesterday's joint ownership meeting.

The owners did discuss the search for a new commissioner and the restructuring of the Major League Agreement, which will redefine the duties and authority of the next baseball czar.

Selig said a committee would be appointed within the next week to prepare a list of candidates.

The meeting also included a briefing on the television negotiations and a presentation of preliminary market research that could affect the alignment of the two leagues and the possibility of interleague play. The owners already had voted earlier this week to reopen the labor agreement with the players union -- just days after a labor/management study group on baseball economics distributed its report on the financial state of the game.

"The fact is that every phase of our business is being examined," Selig said, "because the one thing we all know -- despite the divergent and indigenous differences between the 28 teams -- is that we can't continue to do business the way we have."

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