Memorial Day is supposed to be a time for people to come together to honor those who have given the ultimate sacrifice while serving our country. While the true meaning of the holiday far too often gets overlooked as people are focused in on their trip to the beach or the barbecue they’re going to, it’s still clearly not a time to launch partisan attacks — especially at a non-political event like a baseball game.
Unfortunately, that sentiment was ignored by the Fresno Grizzlies in a video they played in between games during a Memorial Day doubleheader. The video started out as a tribute to fallen soldiers and showed various moving and touching images while audio played of a speech given by Ronald Reagan. But it took on a political agenda towards the end that clearly distracted from the message of honoring the men and women in uniform who have lost their lives in battle.
That moment came when photos of dictators like Fidel Castro and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un were shown while Reagan was heard saying “as for the enemies of freedom, those who are potential adversaries, they will be reminded that peace is the highest aspiration of the American people.” Included in the photos displayed at this point was one of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Congresswoman who represents parts of New York City in the House of Representatives.
Since Rep. Ocasio-Cortez isn’t shy about being a liberal, she’s received a lot of criticism from Republicans and conservative leaders. Even some more moderate members of the Democratic Party have made a point to speak out against her efforts to promote policies that benefit everyone instead of just the wealthy donors who fund political campaigns. It has apparently gotten to the point where she receives death threats fairly often and she claims it’s partly because organizations put out videos that encourage people to hate her like the one played by the Grizzlies.
“What people don’t (maybe do) realize is when orgs air these hateful messages, my life changes because of the flood of death threats they inspire,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote on twitter in response to the video. “I’ve had mornings where I wake up and the 1st thing I do with my coffee is review photos of the men (it’s always men) who want to kill me.”
In the Grizzles’ defense, they did issue a statement online apologizing for the video almost immediately. But even then, they blamed it on higher ups not seeing the full video before it aired and claimed it was purely a “pre-produced video from outside [their] front office.” While that might be the case, it was only a few minutes long and somebody should have been able to take the time to actually watch the video in full.
As people examined the team’s response, another question that came up as a result of their apology is if they got the video “from outside [their] front office,” what company did they use for the video and will they be using it again for future videos? Furthermore, what steps will be taken to make sure that something like this doesn’t happen again in the future. The answer to these questions should have come up in an internal investigation the organization apparently conducted, but they haven’t been publicly addressed.
With all this in mind, it’s also hard to ignore that the Grizzlies are the AAA affiliate of the Washington Nationals who play their games right down the street from Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s office on Capitol Hill. Members of Congress from both political parties are frequently seen at Nationals Park and every home game includes a tribute to service members who are in attendance, so having it’s minor league affiliate play this video can’t be something the Nationals are happy about.
As of right now, however, the Nationals claim they are satisfied with new protocols the Grizzlies will be implementing to prevent similar situations from happening again. Plus, the Nats seem to like how executives in Fresno claim the individual employee who secured the video “has been reprimanded” and is supposedly “remorseful.”
But all of this represents a bigger message that we have a political climate right now where some people believe it’s alright to promote a message of violence and claim a sitting Member of Congress is an “enemy of freedom” simply because her political views might not be the same as theirs. As Thomas Boswell points out in a column for the Washington Post, the Grizzlies must take concrete action to hold the responsible employee accountable. And if they don’t, the Nationals must because baseball should be used to create an atmosphere where we can all come together and celebrate our community — especially in our nation’s capital.