Wednesday, July 2, 2008

All quiet . . . for now

It has been over a week and the Minnesota Twins clubhouse has been eerily quiet.

After the June 20th Minnesota-Arizona game, a rap song with endlessly rhyming "n***er" with bigger, blasted through the team's sound system. The room was full of reporters, mostly White, and two Black reporters. Only I got upset about it and argued against it with the team's only two Black players: Delmon Young and Craig Monroe.

You can read my entire column on this later today on

Ever since the incident, Twins officials has been worried about what I would write. I don't know if I was more disturbed about hearing the N-word (I was), the causal attitude by the two players, especially Young, who played me off, or the team's vain attempt to squash my column by someone who barely speak to me.

The day after the incident, I get an E-mail from Molly Gallatin, Twins publications and media services. She was not in the clubhouse that night, but Monroe obviously went to her, complaining:

"Charles, I just spoke to Craig Monroe about his concerns over an interview you tried (for the record, I did more than try -- we talked for almost 20 minutes) with him the other night in the clubhouse regarding the music selection of the team. I would like to speak with you . . . and was wondering if you can stop by the office next time you're here or call me at work. Thanks. Molly."

I chose the latter, but I took my sweet loving time getting back to the same person whom I left a voice mail message last summer to request a one-on-one player interview, and have yet to get a phone call back from her. I later had to sent a formal complaint to Gallatin, and copied it to others in the organization, including Twins president Dave St. Peter, upon which I got a weak explanation for the obvious snub.

When I finally called Gallatin, whom I addressed as "Ms. Gallatin" -- I don't think someone who don't speak to me, suddenly think we are on first name basis -- she expressed Monroe's concerns about being "embarrassed" and when I was going to run the story.

I gave her no commitment, upon which Gallatin asked if I could give her a preview copy of my column. I quickly referred her to my editor and ended the conversation.

If Monroe had any concerns, he easily could have talked to me, instead of running to some White woman. If the veteran player was worried about being embarrassed, especially since he was trying to convince me that there is a difference on how the N-word is used:

"If you are saying "nigger," that's the word that is very offensive toward African-Americans. But if you're saying, 'What's up, my nigga' (it's OK)," Monroe argued. "I don't let it bother me with music because it is the expression of my people. I feel that we own that (word) and if we use it, I really don't see it as offensive."

It's funny that people like Gallatin can get to me right away on something like this, but can't speak to me when I am in the Twins press box. That entire media relations staff treat me like I am invisible. They'll speak to total strangers and talk around, over, and if they could, through me.

The only Twins employees, besides the players, who regularly speak to me are Peggy, the woman who fixes the press box hot dogs and Polish sausages; Art, the press box attendant, and Ray Cook, who guards the team clubhouse.

The Twins' press box is old-school, country club: I can only recall one time when there were maybe five Black media there. Most of the time, it is just me -- maybe another person of color.

I don't fit in the club. Oh, a couple of local Blacks are in the club because they laugh at the corny jokes, and easily engage in idle chat-chat. But they are only honorary members (these two don't realize it, perhaps) because the baseball media only hand out White privileges to full-time members, not wannabees.

I don't, and don't want to, qualify for membership because if I did, then Gallatin's failed mission to get me to not write something that might be negative toward her employers would have succeeded.

I don't want to be in a club that looks up and down at a fully credential press individual like they are intruding on some party. Or be a member of a club who thinks they know everything about sports.

Or, further yet, be in a club who didn't express the same outrage that I did about hearing the N-word that night. Remember that I said there was one other Black in the room besides me, and the two players -- he was standing in the group with me, when I was asking Monroe about it -- the honorary club member never uttered a word.

But WCCO Radio's Eric Nelson was upset.

"I knew I couldn't put this stuff on the air," he told me. Later on his show, he criticized the double standard some Blacks apply when the N-word is involved.

"I might be one of three or four White guys playing (pickup basketball)," Nelson says. "The African-American players -- not all of them but some of them would use the N-bomb toward each other and it was part of the dialogue of the game. But we (Whites) knew that we better not drop it.

"If you are going to be consistent, it shouldn't matter what color you are, should it?"

Ever since it's been quiet in the Twins clubhouse, musically speaking. Nelson praised me for my stand against offensive music played during open media access periods. It shouldn't be played at any time, I might add. He believes that the music was cut out after my concerns were expressed.

If this is the reason, then I am pleased.

For the record, it was Justin Morneau, a White Canadian who finally turned the music off. He switched it to a country song.

We don't know who put the N-word song on that night, but it's sad that the Twins' only two Black players couldn't see that it was wrong and acted like Spike Lee.

And did the right thing --- turned it off.


Anonymous said...

Why do women call themselves "bitches" and buy t shirts advertising the fact that they are a "bitch"? Why do gay men refer to one another affectionately as "fags"? Why do lesbians, like me, often call themselves "dykes"? Why? To take the power out of the epithets that straight White men hurl at anyone who is not just like them. It is called taking back the language. And it works. It tkaes the sting right out of some ignorant White boy in a backwards baseball cap yelling "dyke" at me when I can yell back "Yeah I am a dyke. Jealous?"

I understand not liking the n-word. I taught African-American Lit for a few years (I'm a White chick but somebody needed to do it) and I winced everytime I had to say that word out loud. More than once I would go back to my office and cry after looking at the faces of my Black students while teaching books that reminded me of what their ancestors wwent through (and what they still face today). But I do understand why the n-word is commonly used as slang in the African-American community. Maybe it isn't the best pain killer in the world, to use language in that way, but sometimes you do what you need to do to take the sting out of how you are treated.

Abe said...

Yeah, this is Minnesota in a nutshell. I would not want to be part of that club either. I met Eric Nelson. Yeah, he was cool. You hear the sterotypes that the North is fine and the south is bigoted. My own experience is I lived in north Florida for 4 years (college at FSU) and it was better down there. I think it is a numbers game. In Tallahassee, the population is 33% black. Here it is about 9%, and when you weed out the people in the "club", it is about 3%. Also, look at history. When I was younger my dad said when they look at you they see a monkey. Yeah, I see that every day. Good column. To h*ll with the Twins too. There whole front office is white (except Deron Johnson. I think he lives in the Bay area and is the player personal guy). Just like the Timberwolves' front office.