GLENMONT — In a 402-word statement to the community, Tri-Village Little League explained why its board voted unanimously against a Black Lives Matter sign and similar signs.
The little league organization passed a new sign policy limiting all advertising to local businesses, avoiding any political or socially charged statements. In its decision it will not erect a suite of signs that included support for Bethlehem Police, the LGBTQ community and Black Lives Matter.
“Not because we do not believe in the causes, or the passion of their supporters, but rather because we sincerely and genuinely believe that community action will have a more lasting and resonating legacy for our players, families, volunteers, and community,” said league officials in an online statement.
The latest decision comes after months of turmoil between league volunteers and community activists who have pushed in particular a Black Lives Matter sign suggested by Delmar resident and immigration lawyer Ted Hartman.
Hartman first suggested a sign to advertise his practice with the slogan last July following the death of George Floyd. He was initially told he missed the February deadline for advertising. An apparent approval for Hartman’s sign in September was quickly walked back after several of the league’s 33 directors were not involved in the 11 to 8 vote.
The back and forth fueled the ire of community members who started blasting the league through social media last July. That same month, the league posted several of its own signs stating, “No place for racism and hate in the Little League,” but it did not stop tempers from flaring. The league acknowledged how it was collectively labeled as both “racists” and “lunatic activists” while standing in the middle of a divided community.
“As we listened we heard one common refrain: Actions speak louder than words,” stated the league. “Coincidentally, this sentiment was underscored in a Times Union article, in which the mother of a Black Little League player commented that the drawn-out discussion/debate over signs had defeated the entire purpose.”
Both sides have grown weary over the months. Other than the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 was defined by social strife throughout the country. Demands for police reform and racial equity were politicized during a contentious presidential election season that carried over into Inauguration Day.
“We are all stumbling through really hard issues,” Hartman said. “Believe it or not I want to get along with the league.”
The league declined to comment beyond its online statement. One source, who wished to remain anonymous, confirmed the league’s new sign policy would involve removing signs supporting the Bethlehem Democratic Committee and Bethlehem Police Union.
In addition to its decision, the league announced several community-based programs it plans to continue or launch this coming season. They include a grant program to allow families confronted with financial hardships to play at Magee free of cost, an equipment drive to benefit areas of the Capital District that may be less fortunate, and themed weekends to celebrate Negro League baseball and women in baseball.
Hartman will field a team this season. He said he plans to contribute more by buying Negro League jerseys representing Satchel Paige, Willie Mays, Roy Campanella, Hank Aaron and Jackie Robinson. He’s also working towards organizing a team of undocumented children.
“I do wish they would have put up a BLM sign,” he added, “but I’ve had no say.”
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