March 23, 2011

Padres Fan Protesting "Dog Tags For Kids" Promotion On "Military Opening Day"

Kap Fulton, a lifelong Padres fan, is disgusted with the numerous military-themed promotions the Padres will be holding this season.
"I am again appalled that you have decided to sell children on the concept of war-through-baseball. "Dog Tags for Kids" on military opening day? You do realize, I'm sure, that Dog Tags are used to identify the corpses of dead soldiers. Why would you give away these items to children? ... [W]hy do you associate the enjoyable afternoon past-time of baseball with the gruesome world of dead soldiers and camo jerseys?

"OK, so you want to honor veterans — no issue there. How about starting with the homeless vets that are herded out of eyeshot from Petco Park? Shouldn't we take care of those men and women before recruiting new eight-year-olds to serve as cannon fodder?"
Fulton has posted a petition asking the Padres to stop associating baseball with war.

Here are seven of the promotions the team with a religious friar as part of their logo will have in 2011:
April 10 – Military Opening Day
May 22 - US Navy Recognition Day
June 12 - US Army Recognition Day
June 26 - US Marine Corps Recognition Day
July 31 - US Coast Guard Recognition Day
August 21 - National Guard Recognition Day
September 18 - US Air Force Recognition Day
Last June, I posted my opinions about the Red Sox's association with various military causes and promotions, so I won't repeat them here.

San Diego is very connected to the US military. The area contains numerous Marine Corps, Navy, and Coast Guard bases and stations, and its harbour contains one of the world's largest naval fleets. Approximately one-fourth of all jobs in the San Diego area are connected to the military, and the county is home to the largest number of military retirees anywhere in the United States.

The Padres proudly call themselves the "Team of the Military" and boast that they "provide more programs and support for the military than any ... professional sports franchise in the country". In 1996, the Padres became the first national sports team to have an annual military appreciation event. When large groups from the nearby Marine Corps Recruit Depot attend games, the Marine Hymn is played during a special Fourth Inning Stretch. The team now wears camouflage uniforms for every Sunday home game. All of the 2011 military promotions mentioned above are on Sundays, when families are more likely to take kids to the ball park.
Example
The US Department of Defense spends more than $2.6 billion each year on recruitment, much of it targeting teenagers. Under the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002, every US high school was required to give students' names, addresses and phone numbers to the military or face the loss of all federal aid. Since most schools need those funds to survive, military recruiters are now in 95% of US high schools. (See also this November 2004 Globe article) The Army's "School Recruiting Program Handbook" offers suggestions to maximize enlistment, such as:
Be so helpful and so much a part of the school scene that you are in constant demand.

Deliver donuts and coffee for the faculty once a month.

Hispanic Heritage Month (in September). Participate in events as available.
For the past five years, the Defense Department has been compiling a comprehensive database of personal and private information about every American between the ages of 16 and 25. According to Major Johannes Paraan, the head Army recruiter for Vermont and northeastern New York:
The only thing that will get us to stop contacting the family is if they call their congressman. Or maybe if the kid died, we'll take them off our list.
Example
Just as advertising has been crammed into every nook and crevice of televised baseball games, the glamorization and ubiquity of the military throughout American culture (and baseball) has become our default setting.

No game begins without the singing of at least one national anthem, "God Bless America" is played on special occasions (stay in your seat!), there are military flyovers on Opening Day, and veterans or military officers are often chosen to throw out the first pitch or are interviewed in the TV or radio booth during the game.

None of this is biased, of course, or should be construed in any way as a political statement. In fact, it's apolitical. It's simply our normal, default setting. It's only when someone asks when a peace activist will throw out a first pitch or raises even a slight objection to any of the on-going wars that everything changes. Suddenly, the atmosphere has become horribly politicized! Why can't fans enjoy a relaxed afternoon of baseball and applaud as the PA announcer thanks the attending veterans for "defending our freedoms" and "protecting our way of life" without having to think at all about politics?

And obviously, you can forget completely about asking why a country teetering on bankruptcy is spending over $10,000,000,000 of taxpayer dollars every single month for no reason other than empire and corporate profit. In the US and (to a lesser extent) Canadian mainstream media, it is strictly taboo to have a conversation about the true nature of any military action. That inability or unwillingness to discuss topics like adults is not limited to the military, of course. We cannot have a reasoned conversation about anything: race, sex, poverty, immigration, etc.

I hope Kap Fulton's petition gets a lot of visibility between now and the start of the season. I support it wholeheartedly. If you agree that the San Diego Padres -- or any professional sports team -- should not act as a promotional arm of the military, especially when it comes to children, please sign the petition and forward it everywhere you can.

11 comments:

laura k said...

Thanks for this, and for highlighting Mr. Fulton's petition.

"OK, so you want to honor veterans — no issue there. How about starting with the homeless vets that are herded out of eyeshot from Petco Park? Shouldn't we take care of those men and women before recruiting new eight-year-olds to serve as cannon fodder?"

Excellent. Thank you, Kap Fulton!

laura k said...

Leave My Child Alone

laura k said...

I posted this on FB and tagged my friends in Southern Cal. I hope others will do the same, also tweet.

troy said...

Extremely well written.

allan said...

None of this is biased, of course, or should be construed in any way as a political statement. In fact, it's apolitical. It's simply our normal, default setting. It's only when someone asks when a peace activist will throw out a first pitch or raises even a slight objection to any of the on-going wars that everything changes.

As I was finishing this post yesterday, a SoSHer whom I respect began a thread with the news that Nick Francona, the son of the Red Sox manager, was being deployed to Afghanistan. The poster wondered how that "situation might affect his managerial performance and focus" this year.

That was fine, but he also made what I felt were editorial comments about the war, reminding us "what's at stake in the mission abroad" and hoping "all our fighting forces execute their duties effectively".

I found that offensive and posted: "I find it sad that anyone is being deployed to that war. What a goddamn waste."

Actually, I am not sure if that is exactly what I posted, though, because the comment was soon deleted by a moderator, who posted: "I removed a post in here that belonged in V&N along with a couple of replies to it. The original post did not belong here." (V&N is Views & News, a subfolder for political discussion at SoSH.)

I also received an email: "That type of editorial comment does not belong on the main board. It is now deleted."

I wrote back: "And something like hoping "all our fighting forces execute their duties effectively" does? There is a wide range of opinion on what those "duties" are. Why is support for war the default setting, but opposition to war off limits? The entire thread should be moved to V&N."

Moderator: "So you really don't understand why a discussion about the pros and cons of a war don't belong on the main board of a baseball board?"

Me: "[X] wondered about Tito's frame of mind, but he also included editorial comments that were in support of war. Those pro-war comments offended me, and I wanted to provide some balance. After posting the news story, if [X] had simply wondered about Francona's ability to concentrate during the season, I would not have said anything. So: Why are pro-war opinions allowed on the main board while anti-war opinions are deleted?"

I have yet to receive an answer.

The thread remains on the main board.

laura k said...

Ugh. That SOSH/moderator exchange is the perfect illustration of what we always talk about: the presumed neutrality of the dominant view.

reminding us "what's at stake in the mission abroad" and hoping "all our fighting forces execute their duties effectively".

I'd be very curious to know what that person thinks is at stake. Oil prices? KBR shareholder profits?

laura k said...

I see this post is already attracted trolls.

Dr. Jeff said...

Regarding "we can't have a discussion", see this

mattymatty said...

Big fan of SoSH, but that's extra shitty. Hopefully you'll get an answer, Allan, though I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for one.

As for the Padres, I think they "love the military" because, as you noted, it's in their back yard. If Boston were a huge military base (and games were not constantly sold out), you could expect to see National Guard Day at Fenway Park. In short, it's marketing and as with all marketing, they don't care one little bit about who or what they're using (in this case the military) to sell their product. They just want to sell the product.

laura k said...

MattyMatty makes a good point, and I'm sure most of us realize that these gimicks are primarily about filling seats.

But there are other considerations, or there should be. There is widespread agreement that marketing certain products to children is unethical, and in some cases, illegal. If it's wrong to make cigarettes appear especially attractive to children, certainly it should be wrong to do the same for the military and for war.

Seen in context of the larger picture - how much military recruitment goes on in US schools today - this is something more insidious and more dangerous than just selling tickets.

allan said...

Update:

Moderator: "I really don't think that someone saying that he hopes they do their job effectively and return home safely is pro-war. If they don't do their jobs effectively, they die."

Me: "How about not doing that job at all? If that was the case, everyone over there would have a much greater chance of staying alive. That is why I said it saddens me that anyone in uniform has to go over there. It has been an utter waste -- of millions of lives most of all, and hundreds of billions of dollars -- and the sooner it stops, the better. For Nick Francona and everyone else.

We will soon have military flyovers on Opening Day and during the season some veterans/military officers will throw out the first pitch or be interviewed in the booth. We are not supposed to think of this as political in any way. And yet when someone asks when a peace activist will throw out a first pitch or raises even a slight objection to a war, suddenly everything changes. Now the atmosphere has become horribly politicized!

Also: why is this comment allowed to stand? "When history writes of the end of the American era, it will begin with how we allowed ourselves to become a nation perpetually at war." It seems no better or worse than mine.

I think you were too quick on the delete button -- and have been selective (rather than consistent) in its use. The thread should be moved to V&N or have all non-Tito's-state-of-mind comments deleted.

***

And something related that I cut from this post:

Why must we support whatever the military does, no matter who sends them, where they go, who they are fighting, or why they are fighting; no matter how long they are fighting or how many of them die; and no matter what facts may later come to light?