Marge Schott purchased a controlling interest in the Cincinnati Reds in 1984 and in 1985 she became president and CEO of the Major League Baseball team. Schott was known primarily for three things as the owner of the Reds. First, she was known as cheap. Second, she was known for her St. Bernard dogs, team mascots known as Schottzie. Third, she was known for making racial slurs. These slurs saw her get banned from managing the team for two years and are now coming back to haunt her even after her death in 2004.
Who was Marge Schott?
In 1981, Schott, who was a fan of the Cincinnati Reds, bought a minority interest in the team. In 1984, she purchased a controlling interest and ran the club as president and CEO of the team. Although she owned the team, it was well-documented she didn’t have much of a baseball IQ. In Rick Reilly’s Sports Illustrated 1996 piece on her, it became evident she cut many corners to save a buck rather than invest it in the product on the field.
Schott said she didn’t want to have team scouts. “All they do is sit around and watch ball games,” she once said. Reilly pointed out that Cincinnati’s front-office staff had, by far, the fewest amount of employees with 41. The New York Mets have 120, the Colorado Rockies 111, and the San Diego Padres 104.
At one point, the Reds weren’t providing fans with out-of-town scores. In the days before smartphones, it was a nice perk to see how other teams were performing that day. “Why do they care about one game when they’re watching another?” she asked. She stopped paying for that service which ran her $350 per month.
Schott’s use of racial slurs gets her in trouble
According to a timeline on ESPN, Cincinnati Reds team controller Tim Sabo was fired on Aug. 23, 1991. On Oct. 9, 1991, Sabo sued owner Marge Schott claiming he was fired for opposing a policy of not hiring blacks. Schott countersued and denied those charges, but on Nov. 13, 1992, Reds former marketing director Cal Levy said Schott referred by Reds players Eric Davis and Dave Parker as “million-dollar ni**ers” and kept a swastika armband at home. Roger Blaemire, the former vice president of business operations, also testified he heard those remarks.
A week later, Schott said the use of the N-word and the swastika weren’t meant to be offensive. On Nov. 24, 1992, Sharon Jones, a former executive assistant with the Oakland Athletics told the New York Times that Schott, in a conference call, said “I would never hire another ni**er. I’d rather have a trained monkey working for me than a ni**er.”
In 1993, Schott was suspended from Major League Baseball for one year for “racially and ethnically offensive language.” She was also fined. On May 14, 1996, Sports Illustrated quoted Schott as speaking in a “cartoonish Japanese accent” when speaking with Japanese prime minister Kiichi Miyazawa. Schott was told on June 6, 1996, to either give up-day-to-day operations of the team or face another suspension of more than one year. On Oct. 23, 1998, Schott sold control of the team.
Marge Schott’s past is haunting her today
Marge Schott died on March 2, 2004, at the age of 75. Her name is still prominent within Cincinnati, including the Cincinnati Zoo and some high school and college baseball facilities. After the death of George Floyd, a black man, at the hands of a white police officer, racial inequality has been brought to the forefront. Some of these facilities would like the Schott name removed. One Catholic high school, Saint Ursula Academy, has already had her name removed. “We can no longer display the name that does not align with our values of diversity, inclusion, and equity,” the president and principal of Saint Ursula Academy said in a statement Thursday.
The Marge & Charles J. Schott Foundation, a nonprofit that continues to give to Cincinnati organizations, issued a statement that read in part: Over the past week, there has been public discussion about major financial gifts with naming rights from the Marge & Charles J. Schott Foundation to community organizations as it relates to the current conversation around racial equality. While we cannot make excuses for the rhetoric made by Mrs. Schott decades ago, we can ask you to learn from Mrs. Schott’s mistakes as well as her great love for Cincinnati.