Dale Petroskey, the president of the Baseball Hall of Fame, recently announced that he was cancelling a scheduled 15th-anniversary celebration of the movie Bull Durham that was to take place at the Hall at the end of April because of antiwar comments made by Robbins. We think the following exchange says it all.
National Baseball Hall of Fame
April 7, 2003
Mr. Tim Robbins
Dear Mr. Robbins:
The President of the United States, as this nation’s democratically-elected leader, is constitutionally bound to make decisions he believes are in the best interests of the American people. After months of careful deliberations, President Bush made the decision that it is in our nation’s best interests to end the brutal regime of Saddam Hussein, and to disarm Iraq of deadly weapons which could be used against its enemies, including the United States. In order to accomplish this, nearly 300,000 American military personnel are in harm’s way at the moment. From the first day we opened our doors in 1939, The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum–and many players and executives in Baseball’s family–has honored the United States and those who defend our freedoms.
In a free country such as ours, every American has the right to his or her own opinions, and to express them. Public figures, such as you, have platforms much larger than the average American’s, which provides you an extraordinary opportunity to have your views heard–and an equally large obligation to act and speak responsibility. We believe your very public criticism of President Bush at this important–and sensitive–time in our nation’s history helps undermine the US position, which ultimately could put our troops in even more danger. As an institution, we stand behind our President and our troops in this conflict.
As a result, we have decided to cancel the April 26-27 programs in Cooperstown commemorating the 15th anniversary of Bull Durham.
April 9, 2003
Dear Mr. Petroskey,
As an American and as a baseball fan, I was dismayed to read your letter canceling my appearance at the Baseball Hall of Fame due to my public criticism of President Bush. I had been unaware that baseball was a Republican sport. I was looking forward to a weekend away from politics and war to celebrate the fifteenth anniversary of Bull Durham. I am sorry that you have chosen to use baseball and your position at the Hall of Fame to make a political statement. I know there are many baseball fans that disagree with you and even more that will react with disgust to realize baseball is being politicized.
As an American who believes that vigorous debate is necessary for the survival of a democracy, I reject your suggestion that one must be silent in time of war. To suggest that my criticism of the President puts the troops in danger is absurd. If people had listened to that twisted logic we’d still be in Vietnam. I must remain skeptical of the war plans of Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld, all of whom have never been in battle, one of whom skirted service in Vietnam for a cushy stateside job. It does not surprise me that these men, in their current federal budget have cut $844 million dollars from Veteran’s health care. Yes, let’s support the troops. For Life.
I wish you had, in your letter, saved me the rhetoric and talked honestly about your ties to the Bush and Reagan Administrations. You are using what power you have to infringe upon my rights to free speech and by taking this action hope to intimidate the millions of others that disagree with our president. In doing so, you expose yourself as a tool, blinded by partisanship and ambition. You invoke patriotism and use words like freedom in an attempt to intimidate and bully. In doing so, you dishonor the words patriotism and freedom and dishonor the men and women who have fought wars to keep this nation a place where one can freely express one’s opinion without fear of reprisal or punishment. Your subservience to your friends in the administration is embarrassing to baseball and by engaging in this enterprise you show that you belong with other cowards and ideologues in the Hall of Infamy and Shame.
Long live democracy, free speech and the ’69 Mets; all improbable glorious miracles that I have always believed in.