ST. LOUIS (KTVI) – A ball park promotion with racial overtones led a St. Louis broadcaster to quit his job.
A minor league team he was working for in Utah sparked national outrage.
Joey Zanaboni, 23, of St. Louis, who is white, did play-by-pay for the River City Rascals minor league team in O’Fallon, MO, last summer.
This month he started a new part-time summer job with a Los Angeles Angels class “A” minor league team: the Orem Owlz in Orem, Utah.
When he got there, he learned about a promotion the team had planned called “Caucasian Heritage Night”.
“The promotional schedule I was given just said “Caucasian Heritage” August 10th. That was a huge red flag. That was something that not only upset me, it actually hurt me,” Zanaboni said.
Fans at the Rascals game Tuesday night agreed.
“Considering everything that’s going on in this world at the moment I don’t think it’s probably a good idea,” said fan Lisa Byrne.
Zanaboni said he raised concerns with team officials. A little research bore them out.
“It’s a term used by people who have quote-unquote white power agendas, ultra right wing,
Neo-Nazis use ‘Caucasian heritage’. I didn’t think it was something the team or the league would want to be associated with,” he said.
He warned of a potential backlash.
Sure enough, outrage spread across social media when the promotional schedule was made public Friday and national media picked up the story.
The team canceled the promotion and apologized within hours saying in a statement “our intentions have been misconstrued” about an event meant to poke fun at white people. It was to feature burgers served on white bread and a vertical leaping challenge.
Still, Zanaboni had had enough.
“I resigned because I was offended by the initial intention to do the event. I also felt like the release the team made cancelling the event was a flawed release…at the end of the day it was just about keeping my own personal integrity,” he said.
USA Today reported he left the team, erroneously implying he was behind the promotion which couldn't have been farther from the truth. USA Today has corrected that report.
Zanaboni will return to his job as sports information director at Coahoma Community College, a predominantly African-American school in Mississippi.
He isn’t giving up on his dream of being a big league broadcaster.