The Staten Island Yankees minor league ball team launched a “blue lives matter day” promotion that has angered some fans because Sunday marked the one-year anniversary of 18-year-old Michael Brown death.
A Ferguson, Missouri, policeman shot and killed the teen after he robbed a convenience store. The former event sparked riots and spawned the saying “black lives matter.”
As parts of the nation observed the one-year anniversary of Brown’s death, the New York Yankees affiliate co-opted the phrase “black lives matter” to serve as a baseball promotion, driving some fans to label the move as inappropriate.
Announcing the promotion in March, the team noted that the event intended to “honor the men and women in our community who sacrifice and go above and beyond to serve others.” Although the “blue lives matter” slogan has been used in protests elsewhere (see picture), the minor-league club said their event focused on honoring fallen policemen rather than making any ideological point.
“We welcome Blue Lives Matter,” the team said, “a nonprofit organization created to help the families of law enforcement during their time of need, to the ballpark on Sunday, Aug. 9. Wife of slain NYPD officer Rafael Ramos, Maritza Ramos, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch.”
Fans would be given a “blue lives matter” wristband at the park during the promotion.
But because the August 9 game just happened to coincide with the anniversary of Brown’s death and because “blue lives matter” came as a direct response to the earlier activist slogan “black lives matter,” the team came in for complaints that it trivialized the death of Michael Brown.
In particular, a writer for the African American website TheRoot.com attacked the promotion.
On the anniversary of the death of Michael Brown, this is what the SI Yankees organization chooses to do? This is beyond poor judgement. Did it occur to anyone at the SI Yankees how alienating this is to fans who have been deeply affected by the events that spurred the “Black Lives Matter” movement, including those right here in Staten Island?
Others were just as apoplectic as TheRoot.com. In one case, NBC Sports writer Craig Calcaterra claimed that the team should never have held such a promotion and even went further accusing America of not caring if blacks are killed.
For instance, at one point in his Monday commentary on the issue, Calcaterra said that “for numerous reasons, black people’s lives have always been thought to matter less, to the point where their killings at the hands of police aren’t even seen as a crime.”
In response to all the criticism, a representative of the team claimed no intent to upset “black lives matter” supporters and regarded the whole thing as an “unfortunate coincidence.”
“There was never any intent to cause controversy or ill-will feelings toward anyone in the community or outside the community,” SI Yankees president Jane Rogers told Huffington Post.
“It’s how we treat any group that comes to the ballpark for fundraising efforts,” she continued. “We do this constantly with many, many groups. It was never a matter of favoring one group over another.”
“We wanted to raise money for the families,” director of marketing Michael Holley added. “[Blue Lives Matter] weren’t handing out any propaganda. There were no political motives.”
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at email@example.com