White Sox Face Backlash For Tone-Deaf Inclusion Of Emmett Till As Mere 'Famous Person From Chicagoland'
Till was posted alongside "Wheel of Fortune" host Pat Sajak.
July 02, 2019 at 2:58 pm
The Chicago White Sox has apologized for including a photo of civil rights icon Emmett Till in a segment celebrating the Windy City's celebrities.
During the White Sox-Twins game on June 29, the scoreboard was transformed for a segment highlighting some famous faces from Chicagoland.
Posted above a trio of pictures were the words “Other Famous People From Chicagoland Include." One of those faces was Emmett Till. On both sides of the photo were photos of Wheel of Fortune host Pat Sajak and legendary actor and director Orson Welles.
I have questions. pic.twitter.com/I3hSbaMedv— Charlie J. Johnson (@Charliemagne) June 29, 2019
What drew outrage was the photo of Till. The slain 14-year-old, who was killed for allegedly whistling at a white woman, being put in the same category as two entertainers was the issue. Till was visiting family members in Mississippi when Carolyn Bryant Donham accused him of flirting with her.
A gang of white men connected to Donham hunted the young boy and lynched him. Many years later, the woman's husband and his half brother were acquitted in the kidnapping and murder of the teen. Till's lynching was part of the impetus for the onset of the Civil Rights Movement. Donham later confessed to lying about many of the details surrounding the incident in her 2008 book.
According to The Chicago Tribune, Senior Vice-President for Communications Scott Reifert said featuring Till's image on Sunday was a mistake. Reifert claimed a member of the scoreboard staff chose Till's image to pay tribute to Chicago's Civil Rights Movement.
“Although it wasn’t a trivia, again, it wasn’t intended in any way to ... it wasn’t a celebration in any sense of the word,” Reifert said. “So you regret it. It’s a mistake.”
The Chicago Sun-Times reports there will be no change in protocol about how the segment is produced. Reifert defended the employee saying the staff member regretted the decision to add Till.
“I think, when you look at it, it doesn’t feel right. It doesn’t pass that test, but it certainly wasn’t done with any sense of pointing ... I can’t even think of the right word to describe that,” Reifert said. “It was basically a list that he put together of famous Chicagoans, and Emmett Till landed on that list. I said, well, you know, I think in retrospect, it probably [would be] easy to not put him on and nobody blinks, right? But Michelle Obama was on the list, and others were on the list."
Reifert added situations of this nature will not and can not happen again.
“The other point I made with him was, [being] next to Pat Sajak kind of minimalizes [Till]. This is a young man who lost his life and certainly has become an icon of the civil rights movement, but for not good reasons. He got it.”