We’re rapidly approaching baseball’s first-pitch season, an occasion that once featured frequent presidential participation. And while the local ballclubs haven’t established much consistency in such matters over the past decade, there have still been occasional executive branch pitches. Vice President Biden threw out the first pitch at Baltimore’s home opener in the April following the 2008 election. The next year, President Obama threw out the first pitch at the Nationals home opener. First lady Michelle Obama later threw out a Camden Yards first pitch of her own.
So when John Angelos, the Orioles executive vice president and chief operating officer, appeared on a local podcast this week, he was asked about the idea of inviting President Trump for a first pitch at Oriole Park.
“Ultimately that decision is with the ownership group as to what major politicians and political figures and societal figures they want to invite,” Angelos said on the B-More Opinionated podcast. “I know that the administration has taken a lot of criticism for its controversial positions; I think more so perhaps for statements made both during the campaign and since the administration came in concerning things that are considered to be problematic from a race, ethnicity, religious, gender, disability [standpoint]. People in those communities have been spoken about very negatively by a candidate and now president.
“You’re asking my personal opinion; I think it’s really incumbent upon any individual who leads the country to step away from those types of statements, to apologize for those statements and retract them,” Angelos said. “And then to turn the page, and then to move forward in embracing their community, all parts of that community. Until that happens, it wouldn’t be my preference to have the president come throw a pitch. But that’s up to the ownership as to what they would like to do there.”
While John Angelos may not be part of Orioles ownership, he’s certainly close to it, as the son of principal owner Peter Angelos. The elder Angelos has long been a major donor to Democratic Party causes; he was a major contributor to the effort to draft Biden in 2016, and gave financial support to a variety of other Democratic candidates and efforts over the last cycle.
John Angelos — who is also the president of the MASN television network — has spoken out on other controversial topics in recent years. His thoughts on the protests after Freddie Gray’s death drew national attention, and he talked to the New York Times about his team’s use of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land” at Friday night home games.
“There is a strain of progressivism in American life, and if we can reflect it, I think that’s a good thing,” he told the Times.
Back to Trump. “B-More Opinionated” co-host Jason La Canfora, a former Washington Post writer, told Angelos that he and his family have become politically active in recent months, which prompted a long reflection from the Orioles executive about the role of politics in sports.
“What we’ve seen in sports over the last year and a half to me is really interesting,” Angelos said. “Because [athletes have been] leaders in speaking up for rights, speaking up in outrage about things that have been said and done politically — not only by the president or the candidate, but about other important things like the Dakota Pipeline issue, like the most recent immigration [stories], sending potentially shock troops through neighborhoods to chase people around, which is outrageous on every level.
“But the people that have led the speaking up, if you will, in sports, have been individual athletes,” Angelos said. “You saw that with Colin Kaepernick, you saw it the other day with Misty Copeland and Stephen [Curry]: speaking up and saying we’re not going to wait for corporate America. We’re not going to wait for the club. We’re not going to wait for the league to tell us what to do or tell us how we’re going to express ourselves. And that is a really good, in my personal view. That is a tremendously positive thing.
“Now admittedly, those people arguably have time and certainly the resources to be outspoken,” Angelos went on, “but nonetheless, many of their peers have not been doing that. And I would say even fewer people in corporate boardrooms and teams and leagues and so forth are speaking out. So I think that that says a lot about the kind of activism that you’re talking about.”
Angelos went on say he is a supporter of neither major political party, which he called “irrelevant to all this, and largely responsible for creating these poor slates of candidates.” He also decried the behavior of the Democratic National Committee during the presidential primaries, and said he would root for any president to do well in the office.
“And the first step to doing extremely well is for this person, this individual who is in the office of the presidency to retract all the outrageous things that have been said and simply do one thing: apologize,” Angelos said. “You don’t say those things about women, you don’t say those things about different ethnic groups, different national origins, people who are disabled, all that. And if you do say them, you’re a big enough person to withdraw them and apologize.
“And the other thing that needs to happen here is more corporate CEOs and people that want to be community leaders to act like Misty Copeland did and act like other athletes have done, right on back to Colin Kaepernick,” Angelos said. “They need to stand up and not normalize and not legitimize and not whitewash that kind of conduct. I wouldn’t accept that from a Democrat or a Republican or somebody from outer space.”
Angelos said he believes demeaning statements from national leaders are “incredibly debilitating to the country,” and that such language “emboldens” and “radicalizes” people who “have some of those proclivities.” Racial biases, he said, are “forms of psychological imbalance.” He said he supports independent media outlets that are “unimpeded by the pressures of corporate America and a corporate-owned media,” that citizens “need to hear what the other part of the media and the advocacy side of our community are saying,” and that Ralph Nader’s decades-old complaints about the two-party system still have relevance.
“So that’s a long way of saying am I outspoken? If I’m asked, I am,” he said. “What we’ve got to do is change this political system, because that’s why we’re here. The duopoly, because that’s why we’re here. This duopoly of parties is absurd, and it’s totally overwhelmed the political process and taken away peoples’ votes. But until that happens, I’ll meet you out there, and we’ll do a little yelling and a little advocating.”