Iowa Baseball Team Avoided Hotel Where Scalise Spoke To White Nationalists

AP

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) has emphasized this week that he was not aware of the hateful views of a white nationalist group founded by former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke when he spoke before it at a convention over a decade ago.

Yet the event was apparently well known and toxic enough that it forced a minor league baseball team from Iowa to move to a different hotel to avoid bumping into the May 2002 conference.

The Iowa Cubs, a AAA team, were planning to stay at the Best Western Landmark Hotel in Metairie, Louisiana at the same time as the national convention for the European-American Unity and Rights Organization was being held there.

But according to newspaper reports at the time, the local New Orleans team that was arranging the visiting team’s accommodations made a change in part because of concerns about the EURO event.

The Des Moines Register covered the lodging change on May 2, two weeks before the convention Scalise spoke at took place on May 17-18. A New Orleans alt weekly, the Gambit Weekly, also reported on the change in an article about potential backlash to the EURO meeting.

The switch was sparked by an anonymous call to the Iowa Cubs about the planned EURO meeting, according to the 2002 report from the Des Moines Register. The team’s media relations director then brought the concern to the New Orleans Zephyrs.

“A representative from the (New Orleans) Zephyrs told me she didn’t want (the Cubs) in the hotel if that meeting was going to take place,” a sales representative for the hotel, Lisa Taylor, told the Register at the time.

The general manager of the Zephyrs, Dan Rajkowski, told the newspaper that the EURO meeting was just one of several reasons the Iowa team’s accommodations were changed.

The Cubs’ general manager, Sam Bernabe, also demurred when asked what his response would be if his team remained at the hotel during the group’s convention. But he later told the Gambit Weekly that “we would just as soon stay away from a group that will create controversy.”

The Cubs’ roster at the time included six black players, four Latino players, and a South Korean player. The team’s hitting coach, who was black and originally from Louisiana, expressed discomfort about the EURO meeting.

“I’m glad we’re staying away from it,” hitting coach Pat Listach told the Register. “I wouldn’t have been comfortable staying there.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Catherine Thompson is a senior editor for Talking Points Memo in New York City. She came to the site in 2013 and reported on national affairs. Previously, she worked as a research assistant to investigative reporter Wayne Barrett. She can be reached at catherine@talkingpointsmemo.com.
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