By: Allan Wolper
Allan Wolper Talks With Rangers Player About Religion, Media
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by Allan Wolper
Chad Curtis e-mailed me last month after I wrote in this space about
his behavior with Jewish sportswriters, his aversion to skin magazines,
and his tense relationship with his former New York Yankee teammates.
Curtis noted I had interviewed lots of people. But not him. A good
point, this being an ethics corner. He wasn’t blaming me for what I
wrote. He said I was just reporting what people told me without
checking it out with him.
Lots of readers weighed in, via e-mail and telephone, for and against
him. Some said Curtis should keep his religion to himself. Others
said Curtis was a moral beacon and that Jews shouldn’t be so sensitive.
I told Curtis the purpose of the column was to show how reporters
sometimes let their sources get away with saying offensive things
because they do not want lose their access to them. In this case,
some writers were offended by what Curtis said, but kept it to
themselves. Thus, their readers were kept in the dark.
On the phone, we spoke for an hour and a half. Curtis is an oft-quoted
source for journalists writing about religion and sports. He is just
as likely to be interviewed by The Wall Street Journal as ESPN. He
worried my column (E&P, July 10) might give people the impression
he did not respect Jews or their religion, although he admitted some
of his views on Judaism might anger Jews who don’t know him.
He said he had great concern and affection for Jews and offered this
political point to prove it: ‘If I was running for president of the
United States, my first choice for a running mate for vice president
would be a Christian. But if I couldn’t find one that I would be
satisfied with, the next group of people that I would look toward
would be the Jewish people because I feel a kinship with them more
than I do with anybody else outside of Christianity.’
(Curtis offered this insight a month before U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman,
D-Conn., an orthodox Jew, was picked to run as the Democratic candidate
for vice president.)
And then Curtis added, ‘That kind of remark doesn’t come from somebody
who has negative feelings toward Jewish people.’
Curtis said reporters often misquote him, misunderstand him, take
things out of context, or twist his thoughts, which was why last spring
he began writing a column on baseball and religion for the Arlington
Morning News, the hometown newspaper of his new team, the Texas Rangers.
His column also is published in The Dallas Morning News.
‘My deal with them is that any editing they did, they would have to
pass it back to me before it ran,’ Curtis explained. ‘That way, there
never would be any misrepresentation of what I said.’
It’s not likely that will ever happen. His column is a diary of his
life as a Christian person who plays baseball. So Curtis never wrote
a word in the spring about his well-publicized clubhouse argument with
Royce Clayton, the Texas Rangers shortstop.
Curtis told Clayton to stop playing an explicit rap song in the team’s
clubhouse. They exchanged unpleasantries. Afterward, Clayton posted a
message on his personal Web site calling Curtis ‘a cancer.’ The two
players eventually shook hands. Clayton blamed the Web site attack on
Curtis is philosophical about journalists in general. ‘You have good
baseball players, and you have baseball players who are not that
good,’ Curtis said. ‘You have reporters who are outstanding, and some
who are not that good at what they do.’
He particularly wanted to reply to an April 16 Newsday column by Jon
Heyman that I quoted and that criticized Curtis’ missionary zeal in
the Yankee clubhouse last year. Heyman, who is Jewish, wrote, ‘
Curtis … tried to convince some Jewish writers that they were making
a big mistake and needed to rethink their beliefs.’
Heyman told me he believed Curtis was telling Jewish writers that they
were bound for hell unless they switched religions, something Curtis
says he would never say to anyone who was Jewish.
‘I believe that Judaism is the absolute foundation of Christianity,’
Curtis explained. ‘There is no separation between Judaism and
Christianity as far as I am concerned. Christianity is the fulfillment
of the Jewish scriptures. Obviously, most Jews are going to disagree
with me on that point.’
Curtis acknowledged telling Suzyn Waldman, a Yankee beat reporter and
broadcaster who is Jewish, that he fears for the fate of Jews who
reject Christ as their messiah. Waldman, who is a friend of Curtis,
told me that Curtis sees Jews who reject Christ as being trapped in a
building about to blow up.
‘I told Suzyn, ‘If I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that our hotel
was going to be blown up, and I am the only one who knew it,” Curtis
said, ”what kind of guy would I be if I didn’t tell anyone?”
Allan Wolper’s ‘Ethics Corner’ column appears monthly in E&P.
(c) Copyright 2000, Editor & Publisher