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Can promotions go too far?

Huntsville StarsTwo recent promotions from MiLB teams involving controversial subjects drew some criticism from outside the baseball world, raising the question of whether promos can go too far.

The Huntsville Stars (Class AA; Southern League) are drawing some attention for “2nd Amendment Night” at Joe Davis Stadium on July 3. The team is working with a local gun shop to give away two Ruger rifles and a Ruger pistol as part of a raffle. In addition, NRA members will receive free admission to the game. As Huntsville GM Buck Rogers told

“Our approach on our Fourth of July show, we’re going to do a night talking about the Constitution,” he said. “We’re handing out copies of the Declaration of Independence to all the fans coming into the game and making it a patriotic salute.

“One of the hot button issues right now is the Second Amendment that everybody’s running from. We’re not touching base on First Amendment, Fourth Amendment, abortion or any of that type of stuff. A lot of stuff makes people uncomfortable.

“Maybe it’s time Americans basically said, ‘Hey, what’s going on? What’s wrong with this? Day in and day out, people’s rights are being taken away. The government is spying. We’ve got phone companies selling our information – the whole nine yards.”

Now, merits of gun control and other niceties aside (doesn’t seem to us like there’s a mass exodus from gun rights in Alabama), there is a big question here: should a baseball team (traditionally a nonpolitical entity) be promoting an event where guns are raffled? It’s a mixed message: while the ballpark will be crammed with fans looking to own a Ruger, there will be an increased police presence at the game as well as increased checks at the door to prevent a gun from being smuggled into the ballpark. Rogers expects to draw 8,000 fans to the game.

In a similar vein, the Hagerstown Suns (Low Class A; Sally League) drew criticism with a General George Armstrong Custer bobblehead giveaway on June 29. Ostensibly the giveaway was to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Custer’s Civil War promotion to the rank of brigadier general, memorializing his service to Washington County in driving out the Confederates. Still, at the end of the day, the Suns wanted to celebrate a controversial general who was central in what is still a very live topic in the United States: the Battle of Little Big Horn.

The local response, in the form of columnist Tim Rowland, wasn’t exactly positive:

Considering the news from the Suns and their association with Hagerstown this year, “Last Stand” is an all too plausible allegory for the team’s future.

Or maybe that was the point. Come to think of it, the only more appropriate symbol for our present situation might have been a bobblehead of a buzzard.

I’m not saying this is the worst bobblehead idea ever construed for the Suns — some years back the team planned an Osama bin Laden bobblehead, an idea that was quashed only after it won the Suns considerable national exposure.

Indian Country Today took issue with the giveaway:

This promotion might call for a demotion. Just days after the anniversary of the Battle of the Greasy Grass, also known as the Battle of the Little Bighorn, Minor League Baseball’s Hagerstown, Maryland Suns will be giving away George Armstrong Custer bobbleheads to the first 1,000 fans through the gates.


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