|Monday, June 7, 1999||
Volume 64, Issue 146
Mahmoudi on Air Conditioning
Mitchell on Vacation
Ed De La Garza
Sometimes, the smallest things can be mistaken for something offensive -- or even racist. Even the most casual statements can be made into slurs or slander. It is petty to blow those things out of proportion and beg for sympathy, but at the same time, it is wise to avoid saying things that may be close to drawing the line.
On Thursday, Houston Astros owner Drayton McLane was accused of making racial slurs targeted toward Hispanics. In a conversation with KTMD-TV Channel 48's Marco Camacho, McLane allegedly said he does not market to the Hispanic community because baseball is too complicated for its citizens, and they don't keep up with the sport because it requires reading newspapers daily. Also alleged is that McLane complained Hispanics buy the cheaper seats at games and don't buy food at the Astrodome because they don't like what is served there.
Whether the accusations are true or false has yet to be determined. But if they are indeed true, McLane not only put his job on the line, but he may likely turn Houston's Hispanic population against the Astros. If the accusations are false, it leaves a black eye on the television station and its supporters for accusing a man of something he did not do -- apparently in the interest of gaining attention.
No one wins in this case. So what if it's true? Camacho gets a pat on the back, while the Astros are left with more public relations problems than the White House. Should the accusations be false, McLane and Camacho move on, but bad blood will remain between the two -- and maybe even between the Hispanic community and the Astros.
Something like this should never happen. It's bad for baseball and for Houston. Camacho could have avoided outrage in the city by confronting McLane himself. Why use the media as a forum to voice his displeasure with someone's comments? A simple phone call requesting clarification on the matter could have been made, but rather than clearing it up and making sure no offense was intended, he used his easy access to the media to voice his accusation.
At the same time, McLane's statements -- true, false or simply misunderstood -- were completely wrong. First of all, baseball is one of the easiest sports to follow. And thanks to Houston's fine sports coverage on television (including Telemundo's), people don't need to read the newspaper to follow their favorite teams.
Furthermore, people buy the cheap seats because McLane prices the other ones too high. Finally, what about the food? Most people had rather eat their own leftovers at home before spending $15 for a cold Domedog, stale nachos and a flat cola.
There is a lesson to be learned here. We must watch what we say and what we intend to share with others. We may not mean what others believe we do, but then again, some people are very sensitive -- especially when it comes to their heritage.
Whatever comes out of this, it should be noted that a person like Camacho wouldn't just come up with something like this out of the blue. But by the same token, McLane is a model citizen of Houston, he has many minority employees and he has never done harm to the Houston Astros or the city.
This is a case that involves two respected men in our community and one heated conflict. Unfortunately, whatever the outcome, it's hard to imagine it being a good one.