Probe of Orioles Finds No Violations
Fisher, Eric, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
Byline: Eric Fisher
The Justice Department will not seek discrimination charges against the Baltimore Orioles following a 13-month investigation into the club's hiring practices.
The Orioles were investigated for possible discrimination against Cuban defectors as a sympathetic gesture toward Cuban president Fidel Castro. Investigators found that the club has several Cuban employees and has attended at least two talent showcases featuring Cuban defectors.
The club drew scrutiny from numerous private- and public-sector groups last year when general manager Syd Thrift told The Washington Times of the team's anti-Cuban defector policy, created after the team's two-game preseason series in 1999 against the Cuban national team. Such a stance was unprecedented in American professional sports.
"It's not really a policy, as much as a philosophy against doing it," Thrift told The Times in May 2000. "After the good will created between the two countries by the visit, we - Mr. Angelos in particular - feel it best to not do anything that could be interpreted [by Cuba] as being disrespectful, or . . . encouraging players [to defect]."
Owner Peter Angelos denied the existence of such a policy, but several Orioles front-office executives confirmed the anti-defector stance.
The Times' reports raised the ire of several lawmakers, most notably Sen. Jesse Helms, North Carolina Republican, and prompted probes by the Justice Department and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Both entities have laws explicitly prohibiting employment discrimination on the basis of nationality or citizenship status. Major League Baseball also investigated the issue.
The EEOC completed its investigation last September and found no evidence of discrimination. MLB officials, satisfied with the Orioles' current practices, also dropped the issue last year.
After interviews with dozens of Orioles employees, baseball officials and Latin American agents, and a review of club records, the Justice Department reached the same conclusion.
"Our investigation has found no reasonable cause to believe that citizenship status discrimination has occurred," Justice Department special counsel John D. Trasvina wrote to Angelos. "Therefore, [the Office of Special Counsel for Immigration Related Employment Practices] is closing our investigation of this matter. …