Omar Moreno spearheading drive to remove racist PRD politician as Panama's baseball czar
Franz Wever gets Panama kicked out of world baseball tournament
by Eric Jackson
What can be worse than the ouster of Roberto Kelly as the manager of Panama's national baseball team for the World Baseball Classic with the use of the racist epithet "mierda negra" and the subsequent public defense of those words by Franz Wever, the PRD legislator who's also head of FEDBEIS, Panamanian baseball's ruling body?
Well, the Panamanian team had qualified for the quarter-finals of the world baseball tournament in Taiwan, and was then eliminated because Wever had not paid for the insurance that Major League Baseball demands in order to allow players under contract to its teams to participate in such events. For that skipped $6,000 payment Panama was kicked out of the tournament, kicked out of their hotel and sent home.
Just as the ruling PRD --- and its overseas apparatus that works the Afro-Panamanian community in the United States --- maintained complete silence about Wever's earlier racist remarks (which may get Panama excluded from the next World Baseball Classic if Wever remains head of FEDBEIS), neither the governmental National Sports Institute (INDE) nor any spokesperson for the president or his party had one word of comment about this latest scandal.
Panama's fans, players, sports journalists and big league veterans --- especially the black ones --- have, on the other hand, had a lot to say.
This country's most popular and free-wheeling Spanish-language Internet discusson forum, Dealante.com, saw a firestorm of fan outrage.
"Now we see why Mariano doesn't want to play for Panama," one fan rather inaccurately charged. (Rivera didn't pitch in the World Baseball Classic because he was not physically prepared to do so.) "This latest thing [Wever] has done merits his lifetime recall from any public post," said another. "He should pack his bags and leave FEDEBEIS, with all the directors with him," went another opinion. "For a sport free of thieves, this is the time for everyone in sports in this country to rise up on a war footing and put all these leaders in their place," concluded another.
That last piece of advice is what Omar Moreno, who played more than a decade in the Major Leagues and won a World Series ring with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1979, then managed Panama's national team in 2003 before being forced out by Wever, is more or less following. "People like Wever shouldn't be in this sport," Moreno told La Estrella. "It's a disgrace for baseball to have leaders of this sort."
Business figures, opposition political figures, sportswriters and fans quickly jumped on the bandwagon. Now there's an informal but popular and powerful "front" moving to drive Wever and the entire FEDEBEIS leadership out of baseball.
Wever has President Torrijos's backing and all the levers of the political class's impunity at his disposal, but he and FEDEBEIS have been left internationally isolated.
The Major League owners have since the 60s been very careful to avoid race relations problems in sport where white Americans no longer comprise the majority of players. Already Wever's defense of the racial slur used against Kelly had brought quiet warnings that Panama would be penalized for the legislator's continued leadership of FEDEBEIS.
Now Panamanian baseball is isolated like it never was before and, although the PRD can play an anti-American card against the Major League owners like the one it's playing against the Bush administration over the Pedro Miguel González affair, the electoral bottom line is that the defense of Fraz Wever is a vote loser for the ruling party.
Look for Franz Wever to be forced out of organized baseball, and probably to be voted out of public office as well.
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