KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP)–Missouri’s largest and oldest grassroots pro-life organization feels discriminated against by the Kansas City Royals due to a series of events leading up to the removal of their organization’s name in conjunction with a June 19 group ticket purchase for a game against the St. Louis Cardinals at Kauffman Stadium.
Missouri Right to Life, which controlled a block of more than 300 tickets as part of a fundraiser, was mentioned on the Royals’ website before being pulled due to complaints by a couple of outspoken pro-abortion advocates. It may have been only two anti-life activists who managed to politicize the way the Royals do marketing and influence the team’s ultimate decision, according to Susan Klein, Right to Life legislative liaison and wife of Dusty Klein, pastor, Cedar Grove Baptist Church, Holts Summit.
“I think we feel discriminated against,” Susan Klein said.
According to The Pitch, a liberal Kansas City tabloid, Scott Hartley, district aide for Missouri State Sen. Jolie Justus, D-Kansas City, labeled Right to Life “controversial” and argued that the Royals should distance themselves from Right the Life for the purpose of being “inclusive.” That was followed by Peter Brownlie, head of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, calling the Royals to complain that mentioning Right to Life on the Royals website was “insensitive” in light of the recent killing of Kansas Abortionist George Tiller, the Kansas City Star reported. Planned Parenthood is the nation’s largest provider of abortions.
When the end result was the removal from the website of the phrase “Right to Life” in the context of trying to increase group ticket sales in the days leading up to the game, Klein saw it for what it was.
“It seems like pro-abortion people are controlling the Royals,” she said.
Klein said it is absurd to punish Right to Life in this manner for the death of Tiller. Right to Life “condemned what the murderer of Tiller did,” she said. A June 1 statement by the state organization’s president, Pam Fichter, indicated that “we have always and will always oppose violent acts in response to the violence of abortion.”
“There’s no reason to tie the two together,” Klein said. “We’re a group of people trying to attend a ballgame who happen to be pro-life.”
The June 19 outing was organized by Right to Life’s Western Region, which sold 58 tickets on the Royals online service and another 261 out of a block of 300 originally purchased, Klein said. Their intent over the years has been to support Kansas City’s professional sports teams and do volunteer work, she said. For example, the group has worked concessions for the Royals and helped clean up Arrowhead Stadium for the Kansas City Chiefs.
“We’re just regular people like everybody else,” Klein said.
One post on prime buzz, where a Kansas City Star columnist on June 16 wrote about the Royals finding themselves “in the midst of abortion politics,” posed the rhetorical question, “If the Royals have a Price Chopper night does that mean they don’t support Sun Fresh?” Or, would a Sprint night mean “they think Verizon is bad?” Marketing is not political, the poster known as WoodyKC reasoned. He saw Right to Life being denied a place on the website due to “potential negative marketing impact.”
The Royals’ website is designed to inform fans that there are hundreds of group events each season. Precise language detailing those opportunities, including the one afforded Right to Life on June 19, is as follows:
“We offer special ticket discounts, block seating, parades, scoreboard recognition, ceremonial First Pitch opportunities and a whole lot more! We’ll make sure your group feels right at home here at the ballpark!
“Below is a listing of just a few of our special events already planned this season—check and see if your group event is already on our calendar. If not, call us at (816) 504-4040 and plan an outing today! As you’ll see from the variety of events, everyone is welcome at Kauffman Stadium. You invite the guests, we’ll do the rest … it’s that simple!”
Phil Gloyer, chairman of the Christian Life Commission of the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC), the largest evangelical denomination in the state and one with a decidedly pro-life flock, wondered whether the Royals may have been manipulated into an awkward position.
“I’m a little concerned about the suggestion that a state senator’s aide would involve himself in the Royals’ marketing strategy, and frankly, to alienate pro-life baseball fans is a bizarre strategy,” Gloyer said. “It is hard to imagine a competent marketer caving to one or two phone calls instead of just pointing them to the team’s ‘everyone is welcome’ standard.”
The Royals would like to be known as an organization that welcomes Christian fans to the ballpark for promotions like “Faith & Family Day at the K,” a June 14 game against the Cincinnati Reds that also featured a concert by MercyMe, but in reality it is problematic for Christian journalists to get credentials.
Lee Warren, a Baptist Press freelance writer from Omaha, Neb., was told in 2007 that the organization had “some discomfort” with him talking to Royals players about their faith because it may be offensive to other players in the clubhouse. Warren explained that his intent was to simply interview players who were known to be Christians. The request for a credential was eventually approved.
“There’s apprehension to credential me as a Christian journalist, and I don’t know why,” Warren said. “I’ve written six or more articles on the Royals going back to 2004, and only in 2007 did I start to have problems getting in there.”
On more than one occasion, Baptist Press and The Pathway have been forced to go the extra mile to justify why they want to be in the clubhouse to interview Christian players. The most recent example of how hard it is for Christian media to cover these events came when Royals officials first promised The Pathway access to the June 14 faith event and then denied it.
The Pathway placed two calls to Mark Tilson, vice president of sales and marketing for the Royals, which were not returned as of presstime.
Allen Palmeri is associate editor of the Missouri Pathway.