This was originally published in The Athletic....
Editor’s note:After this column was published, Mo Egger was informed by a representative from the Marge & Charles J. Schott Foundation that the foundation has no intention of asking the University of Cincinnati to return any donated money, regardless of whether or not the school’s baseball stadium is re-named. The foundation said in a release that it will “fully support the decisions made by the organizations who have received grants from the foundation.”
The baseball stadium at the University of Cincinnati isn’t named after Marge Schott because someone with the school wanted to memorialize her benevolence or to honor the fact that she owned the Reds when they won a World Series. The baseball Bearcats play at a place called Marge Schott Stadium for the same reason UC’s basketball teams are housed in an arena named after a bank.
Because someone cut a check.
Schott’s name was slapped on the ballpark in 2006, two years after her death, for the same reason you’ll find a wall in Nippert Stadium listing donors who helped fund its renovation and really, for the same reason nearly anything gets named after anyone at most major universities. It’s because the Marge and Charles J. Schott Foundation donated $2 million to help fund UC’s Varsity Village project. That was a nice gesture right when the school badly needed to raise cash. I can’t say with complete certainty whether the donation carried with it the condition that the major campus landmark be named in Schott’s honor, but without Marge’s money, I feel pretty comfortable assuming that the park now known as Marge Schott Stadium would be known as something else.
There’s a movement to rename the ballpark, spearheaded by a former UC baseball player named Jordan Ramey and launched into the nation’s larger ongoing conversation about race by former Bearcat All-American and three-time Major League All-Star Kevin Youkilis. The idea is pretty simple: Marge Schott was a racist, and therefore the stadium shouldn’t be named after her.
Ah, but it’s not that easy, right? Marge did do a lot of good when she was still with us, even as she kept making us cringe. Schott wrote checks to the Boy Scouts, she was a huge supporter of the Cincinnati Zoo and she donated to hospitals and schools. She was, by many accounts, awesome with children and always accommodating autograph requests as she puffed on a cigarette. And, of course, she was the principal owner the last time a major Cincinnati sports team did anything of note in the postseason, which frankly is probably the thing her most ardent defenders care about the most.
But being exceedingly generous doesn’t earn one the equity needed to be able to get away with saying and doing truly wretched things. Her list of offensive comments includes a former Oakland A’s employee quoting Schott using blatant racial slurs about African Americans, an on-the-record insistence that Adolf Hitler wasn’t such a bad guy, a statement about how“only fruits wear earrings” and this line to Sports Illustrated in referring to seeing a group of Asian kids: “I don’t like when they come here, honey, and stay so long and then outdo our kids. That’s not right.”
It is astounding that 14 years ago, with Schott’s history of racist, homophobic and anti-Semitic remarks fresher in our memories than they are right now, the people in charge of signing off naming buildings at UC gave the OK to one of the most prominent structures on campus being named after, well, a racist, homophobe and anti-Semite.
Until you remember that the naming rights of the ballpark were bought and paid for.
To read the entire piece, go to The Athletic.