Tim Robbins
vs.
the Hall of Fame


Baseball Hall of Fame President Dale Petroskey has pulled the plug on a 15th-anniversary celebration of the movie "Bull Durham" because of anti-war criticism by co-stars Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon. Petroskey sent a letter to Robbins and Sarandon, telling them the festivities April 26-27 in Cooperstown had been called off. Recent comments by the actors "ultimately could put our troops in even more danger," said Petroskey. "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."

Here is Robbins' response:


The sign for peace... or a curve ball?
Dear Mr. Petroskey,

As an American and as a baseball fan, I was dismayed to read your letter canceling my appearance at the Baseball Hall of Fame due to my public criticism of President Bush. I had been unaware that baseball was a Republican sport. I was looking forward to a weekend away from politics and war to celebrate the 15th anniversary of "Bull Durham." I am sorry that you have chosen to use baseball and your position at the Hall of Fame to make a political statement. 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.

As an American who believes that vigorous debate is necessary for the survival of a democracy, I reject your suggestion that one must be silent in times of war. To suggest that my criticism of the president puts the troops in danger is absurd. If people had listened to that twisted logic we'd still be in Vietnam. I must remain skeptical of the war plans of Bush, [Vice President Dick] Cheney and [Defense Secretary Donald] Rumsfeld, all of whom have never been in battle, one of whom skirted service in Vietnam for a cushy stateside job. It does not surprise me that these men, in their current federal budget, have cut $844 million dollars from veterans' health care. Yes, let's support the troops. For life.


Robbins as "Nuke" in "Bull Durham."
I wish you had, in your letter saved me the rhetoric and talked honestly about your ties to the Bush and Reagan administrations.* You are using what power you have to infringe upon my rights to free speech and by taking this action hope to intimidate the millions of others that disagree with our president. In doing so, you expose yourself as a tool, blinded by partisanship and ambition. 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 opinion without fear of reprisal or punishment. Your subservience to your friends in the administration is embarrassing to baseball and by engaging in this enterprise you show that you belong with other cowards and ideologues in a hall of infamy and shame.

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

Sincerely,


Tim Robbins

April 11, 2003

* Note: Petroskey served as an assistant press secretary to President Reagan from 1985-87.

Ron Shelton, the film's director, said: "I can't believe that this country has come to the point where people of disparate political opinions can't gather together to celebrate something we can all agree on -- baseball and films."

Kevin Costner came to the couple's defense saying that freedom of speech was one of the key democratic rights that America battled to ensure. "I think Tim and Susan's courage is the type of courage that makes our democracy work," he said. "Pulling back this invite is against the whole principle about what we fight for and profess to be about."


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