Lynn Spruill: Stepping up to the plate

February 28, 2014 10:09:07 AM

Lynn Spruill -


I have discovered the world of MSU college baseball. It took a spur of the moment trip to the ballpark last season, and I was at least partially hooked.  


I confess I had never even been to Dudy Noble Field until the latter part of the season last year.  


When we ended up making it through to the finals in Omaha, it created a wonderful buzz for us in many ways. The most notable for me was how positively Mississippi was portrayed by our team, fans and coaches. The strength of our support, enthusiasm and good-natured approach to the series were the center of many sports-casting discussions. It was a highlight for us in what has often been a less than attractive representation of our state on far too many topics.  


My association with MSU athletics spans generations. I watched basketball games in what is now the McCarthy gymnasium with my father who was an avid basketball fan. I can recall our early 1960's heyday of basketball greatness with Coach Babe McCarthy. The most important thing McCarthy, in addition to winning a lot of basketball games, was his role in the "game of change" in 1963, when the all-white Bulldogs from the segregated South defied convention to play an integrated team from Loyola.  


Sports offer opportunities to excel and lead, but you don't immediately think of sports as the change-agent for a culture. Mississippi State University did just that and it makes me proud. There were three Starkville natives on that '63 team, Leland Mitchell, Don Posey and Jackie Wofford. Mitchell left us last year, but his legacy and that of Don and Jackie makes those of us who call Starkville home stand a little taller.  


The next time you see Don Posey or Jackie Wofford thank them for their courage in making our state a better place to be.  


So what have we done lately that furthers that goal of non-discrimination and inclusiveness? Most recently the City of Starkville became the leader in the nation for adopting the broadest and most comprehensive, inclusive non-discrimination policy of any municipality in the country. The ordinance barring hiring discrimination based on sexual orientation in Starkville's resolution virtually mirrors that of Mississippi State University.  


That would count as two home-runs for our STATE and city. Very shortly after passage by Starkville, the City of Hattiesburg passed the same resolution. What do our two university towns have in common? Apparently we believe in and live by inclusiveness and diversity. Anything going on up in Oxford this year reflecting non-discrimination? 


What about the rest of the state? Glad you asked. We have two steps forward and three steps back as the order of the day. Senate Bill 2681 which sanctions discrimination based on a concept of religious freedom is currently headed to the Mississippi House. The language of the bill says: "Exercise of religion means the practice or observance of religion. Exercise of religion includes, but is not limited to, the ability to act or the refusal to act in a manner that is substantially motivated by one's sincerely held religious belief." In other words, if you really, really, really believe, you may discriminate against those your personal view of religion doesn't agree with.  


It was passed with no dissenting votes. How does that happen? According to the Democratic spokesman it didn't get read by those who were going to vote on it. In this case the devil isn't in the details, it's in the whole document.  


Up until now Arizona had cornered the market on discrimination through passage of their Religious Freedom Restoration Act. It went to the governor and late Wednesday she vetoed it with some additional urging from three of the senators who voted to approve it. They backtracked on their support under heavy pressure from the business community.  


Three of the larger employers in Arizona denounced its passage and also called on the governor to veto it. Those liberal corporate bastions are Apple, American Airlines and Marriott hotels. It appears the National Football League isn't too happy about it either since the Super Bowl is supposed to be in Phoenix next year. Kudos go to Gov. Brewer for doing the right thing no matter the reason.  


The state of Mississippi continues to be last in so many of the metrics that are necessary for our state to have economic growth and development that then translates into jobs and opportunities. How do we get out of our own way so that we can succeed when we go out of our way to create artificial barriers that scream of our intolerance? Let's hope our governor is just as cognizant of the impact this would have on Mississippi and if by chance it reaches his desk uses his veto power to say no to discrimination.