What’s in a name? Cincinnati grapples with Marge Schott

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SCHOTT

FILE – In this Sept. 22, 2002 file photo former Cincinnati Reds majority owner Marge Schott signs autographs prior to the final game at Cinergy Field in Cincinnati. Schott was a divisive figure when she owned the Cincinnati Reds, getting suspended and ultimately forced out for her racially offensive language. The community is debating what to do with facilities named in her memory. (AP Photo/David Kohl, file)

CINCINNATI (AP) — Marge Schott’s slurs and other offensive comments while she owned the Cincinnati Reds have organizations in her hometown reconsidering the use of her name on facilities that benefited from her donations.

Schott died in 2004, but her name is still prominent in the community. Most of her estate went to a foundation that funds a wide range of philanthropic ventures. Her name is featured on many facilities, from the Cincinnati Zoo to a baseball stadium on the University of Cincinnati’s campus.

Calls for racial justice following George Floyd’s death have renewed questions about how to remember Schott, who was repeatedly suspended and ultimately ousted by Major League Baseball over her slurs and praise for Adolf Hitler.

A Catholic high school this week became the first to remove her name from facilities.

“We can no longer display the name that does not align with our values of diversity, inclusion, and equity,” the president and principal of Saint Ursula Academy said in a statement Thursday.

Schott made a personal donation to Saint Ursula Academy for two projects. In return, the school put her name on a science, language and arts building, and named its athletic facility “Schottzie Stadium” in honor of her dog.

Others are considering similar moves. The Marge & Charles J. Schott Foundation, which has funded projects that include naming rights, is encouraging the discussions.

“While we cannot make excuses for the rhetoric made by Mrs. Schott decades ago, we can ask you to learn from Mrs. Schott’s mistakes as well as her great love for Cincinnati,” the foundation said in a statement. “We appreciate what these great organizations bring to Cincinnati and we fully support the decisions made by the organizations who have received grants from the Foundation.”

Schott ran a car dealership in Cincinnati before buying controlling interest in the Reds, one of the city’s most treasured entities. The city boasts of the first professional baseball team and still celebrates the Big Red Machine that won back-to-back World Series titles in the 1970s.

Schott took a back seat in the 1980s while player-manager Pete Rose set the all-time hits record. She became more hands-on after Rose received a lifetime ban from MLB for gambling in 1989. Her conduct soon became a national focus.

Team employees said Schott used slurs for black players and made derogatory remarks about Jews and Japanese. She said Hitler was “good at the beginning” but then “went too far.”

Major League Baseball banned her from the team’s day-to-day operations for the 1993 season and levied another suspension after she returned and continued to make offensive remarks. Ultimately, she was forced to sell controlling interest in the team in 1999.

Schott kept a low profile in her later years but continued to support community causes.

She donated $2 million for a 3,085-seat baseball stadium at the University of Cincinnati that has her name on the exterior. Athletic director John Cunningham said in a phone interview that there are ongoing discussions about changing the name.

The school’s board of trustees has put the stadium naming on the agenda for its June 23 meeting.

Jordan Ramey, who grew up in Cincinnati and played baseball at the school, started a national petition to change the stadium name. The petition on Change.org had more than 8,800 signatures Friday.

Ramey declined to be interviewed about his petition, in which he says, “We have a responsibility to develop our kids for the future. Black kids should not be made to play and represent a name such as hers and white kids should not be celebrating her legacy subconsciously.”

Former Boston Red Sox star Kevin Youkilis supports the move to change the stadium’s name. Youkilis grew up in Cincinnati and attended the university. He tweeted that he once had an opportunity to have the field at Marge Schott Stadium named for him.

When Youkilis told his father about the opportunity, Mike Youkilis said he’d never allow the family’s name to be associated with someone who was “filled with such hatred toward our Jewish community.”

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