Thursday, April 10, 2003

Hall punishes war protesters


'Bull Durham' festivities cancelled over actors' criticism

By Ben Walker
The Associated Press

NEW YORK - The baseball Hall of Fame has canceled a 15th anniversary celebration of the film "Bull Durham," and the shrine's president said it was because of anti-war criticism by co-stars Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon.

Hall president Dale Petroskey sent a letter to Robbins and Sarandon this week, telling them the festivities April 26-27 at Cooperstown, N.Y., had been called off.

Petroskey, a former White House assistant press secretary under Ronald Reagan, said recent comments by the actors "ultimately could put our troops in even more danger."

Reached Wednesday night, Robbins said he was "dismayed" by the decision. He responded with a letter he planned to send to Petroskey, telling him: "You belong with the cowards and ideologues in a hall of infamy and shame."

The weekend affair, planned months ago, also was to feature "Bull Durham" actor Robert Wuhl and Ron Shelton, who wrote and directed the 1988 film.

Instead of commemorating the movie, the Hall canceled the celebration in a letter Tuesday sent to the scheduled participants.

"In a free country such as ours, every American has the right to his or her own opinions, and to express them. Public figures, such as you, have platforms much larger than the average American's, which provides you an extraordinary opportunity to have your views heard - and an equally large obligation to act and speak responsibly," Petroskey wrote.

"We believe your very public criticism of President Bush at this important - and sensitive - time in our nation's history helps undermine the U.S. position, which ultimately could put our troops in even more danger. As an institution, we stand behind our President and our troops in this conflict."

Robbins and Sarandon, his longtime partner, have been active in peace rallies to protest the war in Iraq.

In his letter, Robbins said he'd been looking forward to "a weekend away from politics and war." He said he remained "skeptical" of the war plans and told Petroskey he did not realize baseball was "a Republican sport."

"I am sorry that you have chosen to use baseball and your position at the Hall of Fame to make a political statement," Robbins wrote. "I know there are many baseball fans that disagree with you, and even more that will react with disgust to realize baseball is being politicized.

"To suggest that my criticism of the President put the troops in danger is absurd. ... I wish you had, in your letter, saved me the rhetoric and talked honestly about your ties to the Bush and Reagan administrations.

"You invoke patriotism and use words like 'freedom' in an attempt to intimidate and bully. In doing so, you dishonor the words 'patriotism' and 'freedom' and dishonor the men and women who have fought wars to keep this nation a place where one can freely express their opinions without fear of reprisal or punishment."

Robbins signed his letter with a reference to an old World Series champion.

"Long live democracy, free speech and the '69 Mets - all improbable, glorious miracles that I have always believed in," he wrote.




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