The Colorado Crusading Rockies: why is the club's religious mandate such a huge secret in its own hometown?

Here in a few weeks my company is taking all the employees to a Colorado Rockies game. All of us except me, that is – I’ll be begging off for reasons that I feel like I’ve hashed through a million times. I will no doubt be afforded several more chances to explain why I refuse to patronize the Rox as the big day approaches.

Short version: the Colorado Rockies are an evangelical Christian organization that, if I take them at their word, appear to discriminate (as a fundamental operating philosophy that I can only assume includes personnel decisions, both on-field and in the front office) on the basis of religion. I first wrote about the story shortly after it broke in an August 2006 Lullaby Pit piece on Who Would Jesus Play For? I was appalled on a number of levels, but was especially put off by their insistence on equating character with evangelical Christianity. That’s pretty offensive stuff, especially for us non-Christians. I don’t care what your religion is, and I hope that whatever it is leads you down the path to a better life. But if you can’t follow your path without denigrating mine, then I’m bound to draw some conclusions about you, aren’t I?

I addressed the situation again in October of the following year when the team somehow ripped off 21 wins in 22 tries (a tear that smacked more of “sold soul to devil” than it did “accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Personal Savior”) to reach the World Series. At that point, I suggested that there was a moral imperative involved in rooting against a team that so actively betrayed the nation’s commitment to civil rights. Whatever divine forces there are in the universe who care about baseball must have agreed with me, as my beloved Red Sox thrashed The Lord’s Team in four straight.

I believed every word I said back then, and I’ve encountered no reason to change my mind. As such, I vowed that this Rockies regime would never see a penny of my money. That means that I’m not going to Coors Field, and I’m not going to let anyone else subsidize the team’s behavior on my behalf, either. I’ll also go out of my way to avoid patronizing their advertisers, as well, although that’s not an easy trick in Denver. Still, I do what I can, because this is a principle that matters to me a great deal.

The part that continues to baffle me, though, is that the Rockies’ embedded policy of religious discrimination is such a mystery to the people who live here. I’ve lost count of how many times the subject has come up in conversation since I moved back out here at the beginning of 2007, but it’s dozens, at least. And I do not exaggerate when I say that in 95% of the cases, the person I’m talking to has never heard about it.

How is this possible?

  • It was reported in The Nation.
  • It was reported in USA Today.
  • It was reported in The Denver Post (in an article where players were trotted out to refute the potentially damaging nature of the story – I’ll never know if the USA Today article touched off a PR debate inside the organization, but I wouldn’t bet against it).

How in the hell was this not the biggest story in town for days?

As for those player denials…were the reports inaccurate? Well, three points on that. First, I can’t find anywhere that GM Dan O’Dowd, then-manager Clint Hurdle, or the team’s Mickey Mouse owners, the Monfort Brothers, have denied the story.

Second, even if some of the players don’t see it, that doesn’t mean they have full visibility into the guiding principles up in the executive suite. This is true in most companies that people work for, if you think about it. Leadership often charts a course around certain core beliefs and goals that aren’t necessarily shared with the rank-and-file.

Third, even if the reports got the story wrong (something I find no evidence for), that still wouldn’t explain why nobody in the 5280 – which really is a great baseball city, by the way, with fans that most franchises can only dream of – knows what they hell I’m talking about. I know that Americans are not the best at keeping up with what’s going on in the world, but come on – this is a nationally reported story and this town is just stupid for its sports. Keeping something like that out of the popular consciousness here is normally like trying to keep bacon a secret around my Scottie.

In any case, I am the keeper of nobody’s conscience but my own, and I hope my co-workers enjoy a nice day at the park. I also hope that they’ll understand and respect my position. We all make any number of concessions as we hack through our culture, which is fairly infested with moral compromise. But we all have to draw a clear chalk line somewhere. This is mine.

One of them, anyway…

6 replies »

  1. Not just the Rockies. The Colts are run by real zealots and until recently were coached by a super-zealot, Dungee (who was too busy saving souls to take care of his kids as it turned out.) And the Broncos had Elam, who write apocalyptic Revelations novels in his spare time, and now have the odious Tebow, allegedly because he and the head coach share their belief systems. Sports is absolutely full of evangelical Christians at every level, from individual players up to entire organizations. Maybe the delightfully pagan NBA, with its thinly disguised hedonistic value system, is the only exception.

    My college team, the Georgia Bulldogs, gives players Bibles when they arrive and a few years ago lost a lawsuit because a Jewish cheerleader was deselected because she refused to join in the pre-game prayers.

    If you really want a scare, go to one of these Evangelical Christian supermarkets.

  2. Yep, yep, and yep. As much as I love the Broncos, this Tebow thing is making it tough on me.

    I honestly can’t figure out why we haven’t seen a lawsuit of some magnitude. I mean, discrimination on religious grounds is still illegal, right?

    • Not necessarily, no. If you’re a private organization doesn’t get government money, you often can discriminate if you want, like how the Boy Scouts is allowed to block membership or throw out gays and atheists. I’m no lawyer, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the same standard applied to sports teams.