Philadelphia Apologizes to Four-Decades Dead Jackie Robinson

American baseball player Jackie Robinson (1919 - 1972) grounds a ball at first place while warming up for an exhibition game against the New York Yankees, Ebbets Field, NYC, 1950s. (Photo by Hulton|Archive/Getty Images)

The Philadelphia city council apologized to Jackie Robinson 69 years after the player who broke baseball’s color line endured vicious abuse in the city. Being dead for 43 years, five months, and a week, Robinson gave no indication whether he accepted the apology or not.

The Philadelphia Inquirer chronicles Robinson hearing taunts about returning to the “cotton fields” and “jungle” from the Phillies dugout when they ventured to Brooklyn to play the Dodgers in his 1947 rookie season. The resolution notes that a hotel in the City of Brotherly Love refused Robinson accommodations when he traveled there with his team.

“Be it resolved by the Council of the City of Philadelphia,” the coda to Thursday’s resolution containing many factoids obtained from Wikipedia reads, “that City Council hereby recognize, honor and celebrate April 15, 2016 as a day honoring the lifetime achievements and lasting influence of Jackie Robinson, and apologizing for the racism he faced as a player while visiting Philadelphia.”

Why not “apologizing” for the grammatical errors, too?

Like all good sorrys, it works as an apology rather than a rationalization. But it neither comes from the offender nor goes to the offended. What’s the point? To give politicians a chance to pat themselves on the back. “Look how righteous and decent we are! Three cheers for us!

A publicity stunt using a long-dead hero as a PR prop requires an apology all its own.


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