The Baseball Hall of Fame cancelled their planned ‘Bull Durham’ 15th anniversary tribute because of the controversial anti-war statements made by stars Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon:

“In a free country such as ours, every American has the right to his or her own opinions, and to express them. Public figures, such as you, have platforms much larger than the average American’s, which provides you an extraordinary opportunity to have your views heard — and an equally large obligation to act and speak responsibly,” [HOF President Dale] Petroskey wrote.

“We believe your very public criticism of President Bush at this important — and sensitive — time in our nation’s history helps undermine the U.S. position, which ultimately could put our troops in even more danger. As an institution, we stand behind our President and our troops in this conflict.”

I have mixed reaction to this. On the one hand, it’s rather silly to inflict politics into this. I disagree with the views expressed by Robbins and Sarandon but still enjoy that particular movie and most anything Robbins has done, notably Shawshank Redemption. Most Hollywood types are rather leftish; that isn’t going to stop me from watching movies I like.

That said, the reaction of the actors is also rather hypocritical:

Reached Wednesday night, Robbins said he was “dismayed” by the decision. He responded with a letter he planned to send to Petroskey, telling him: “You belong with the cowards and ideologues in a hall of infamy and shame.” . . .”I am sorry that you have chosen to use baseball and your position at the Hall of Fame to make a political statement,” Robbins wrote. “I know there are many baseball fans that disagree with you, and even more that will react with disgust to realize baseball is being politicized.

“To suggest that my criticism of the President put the troops in danger is absurd. … I wish you had, in your letter, saved me the rhetoric and talked honestly about your ties to the Bush and Reagan administrations.”

Isn’t Robbins an ideologue? And, isn’t he using his celebrity status to draw attention to ideas that, were he not an actor, no one would care about? It seems unreasonable to use your celebrity to publicize your politics and then cry, um, foul when your politics offend someone.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Playing devils advocate – well, isn’t that just what Dale Petroskey did? I mean come on, that is like the pot calling the kettle black if you ask me.

    He is using his position as HOF President, to counter something that he personally is offended by. In addition, he is punishing baseball/movie fans by pulling the show. All TR & SS are doing is shooting off their big mouths, as usual.

  2. James Joyner says:

    I think what Petroskey is doing is playing CYA. My guess is that he isn’t so much offended at what they said as worried about public reaction to having the HOF honor them right now. I think he’s worried about nothing, though.

  3. Emily says:

    Just as Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon have the right to spout their rhetoric and offend us. The HOF president has the exact same right to spout his and offend them.
    What the whole thing ultimately amounts to is a pissing contest in which the winner is the one who can withhold what the other covets more. In this case, its the opportunity to celebrate a mediocre 15 year old movie.

  4. John Lemon says:

    I never really liked Bull Durham as it seemed to wallow in the seedy underside of baseball too much. I like my baseball like my American Dream, filled with hope and optimism — give me The Rookie, The Natural, Field of Dreams or Major Leage 2 any day.

    And the only Tim Robbins moment I’ve ever liked is movies is when he turned into a big space popcicle in that Mars movie. Now that’s entertainment.