CHICAGO — The Chicago White Sox addressed a scoreboard segment during Saturday’s game that featured a picture of Emmett Till, whose 1955 murder in Mississippi was a pivotal moment in the civil rights movement.
Under the words “Other famous people from Chicagoland include:” Till’s photo appeared in the middle with Pat Sajak to the left and Orson Welles to the right.
“It was done as a list of famous and iconic Chicagoans, so the person who did it (a member of the scoreboard staff) felt like Emmett Till is an iconic face of the civil rights movement in Chicago,” Scott Reifert, Sox senior vice president for communications, said Sunday. “I pointed out that, probably in retrospect, it’s poor form.
“We talked about it. He regretted it. Certainly, he admitted it was a mistake. The intent certainly wasn’t to insult anybody, not Emmett Till by any means. It was, in a sense, famous Chicagoans.”
Till was 14 and visiting family in Mississippi when he was lynched and brutally murdered in August 1955 after being accused of flirting with a white woman, Carolyn Bryant Donham.
The woman’s husband and his half-brother were acquitted of Till’s murder and kidnapping by an all-white jury. Many years later, the woman admitted she fabricated many of the details.
Reifert said the scoreboard staffer understood the magnitude of what Reifert called “an honest mistake” after a conversation and that “there was no ill will meant by any of it.”
“When you look at it, it doesn’t feel right,” Reifert said. “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. 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.
“The other point I made with him was, next to Pat Sajak, kind of minimalizes (this) is a young man that lost his life and certainly has become an icon of the civil rights movement, but for not good reasons. He got it.”
Reifert said there won’t be a change in protocol.
“Obviously, lots of stuff goes on over the course of the season, so you’ve got to trust people to do their jobs,” Reifert said. “He did not intend that by any stretch of the imagination. He regretted it as soon as I pointed it out. He understood and apologized.”
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