There are ramification far beyond just raising money

When I first saw the advertisement, I said out loud to no one in particular, “This has to be a joke!” I read further and discovered it probably wasn’t a joke. It was all too real. The St. Helens Girls Softball Association was raffling off an assault weapon.

Specifically it was a DPMS Panther Oracle A-TACS AR-15 5.56/.223 Cal with two 30-round magazines.

Seriously. I just sat there shaking my head, wondering what are they thinking?

Upon a quick perusal of their Facebook page, it became clear that I wasn’t the only one stunned by the news. There were dozens of posts, mostby: SELF-PORTRAIT - Sports Editor John Brewington vehemently opposed, and some defending the raffle. The defenders were those on the board and the individual who originally proposed raffling off the weapon.

Softball board members dug in their heels in their defense of the raffle, saying basically that they had done nothing wrong, they’d raised $2,000 for the association, the raffle was over, the weapon would be awarded, and they weren’t going to talk about it anymore.

Those opposed organized a meeting to discuss the matter on Thursday night. While this column was written before the meeting, it appears a good number of people were planning on attending. The board said they would not attend. And to be fair, there are those that think this was a wonderful idea, based on someone having already done the same thing for another youth sports organization in another state.

Apparently, the local board checked with their umbrella organization, ASA softball, and was told they are within their rights to have the fundraiser.

There is nothing illegal about this fundraiser. The softball board has a responsibility to raise money. However, it seems to be a case of the ends justifying the means.

There may be some disconnect between the board and their constituents. Part of the problem appears to be a bit of hubris. The board often holds closed meetings and expects the rest to follow along with whatever they decree. I’m not sure whether this fundraiser was done at a closed meeting or not, but it was done quickly and it doesn’t look like there was any discussion of possible ramifications.

Was the board unaware of the mass killing of school children at Sandy Hook last fall? Were they unaware of the national debate continuing over limitations on these very weapons? Did they think there would be no objections to their actions? They didn’t anticipate any backlash?

Well, now they have backlash and apparently don’t want to consider that their decisions might have been ill-advised and a bit rash.

Some parents are threatening to pull their daughters out of the league. One sponsor has indicated they may pull their sponsorship. The organization has lost support from many parents and players.

“This is just stupid,” one of the players said in that teenage girl sort of way.

Some have tried to draw an equivalency over selling alcohol to adults at a fundraiser. The association itself raffled off a keg of beer not too long ago. Given the raw nerves exposed by recent gun violence events and threats, it’s pretty safe to say there is no equivalency.

This isn’t a discussion about Second Amendment rights. At least it shouldn’t be. Many of the people that are objecting are gun owners themselves. The objection is making a political statement through a youth sports organization. The objection is a lack of transparency on the part of the board.

I’ve seen softball organizations tear themselves apart over issues like this. Everything needs to be open.

Just for the record, I was involved in softball at the local and state levels for many years. I was the ASA District Commissioner in Columbia, Jackson, and Josephine Counties. I was the president of the state association for something like seven years. I wrote their constitution and by-laws. I’ve been involved with building or upgrading and lighting several softball fields both locally and in other areas. And I organized a youth tournament team when my daughter was younger. I’ve also covered softball for nearly 40 years.

With that history, I think I can safely say to the softball board that yes, you did do something wrong. The general idea of holding a raffle is not wrong, but picking a controversial object to raffle off without considering how some might react was wrong. Needlessly creating a brouhaha among those dedicated to the sport was wrong. Refusing to admit even the possibility that you could have been wrong and refusing to even talk about it is wrong.

I am not without empathy for the softball board. I believe they thought they were doing a good thing by raffling off something popular with some and raising a quick buck or two. However, there is always the rule of unintended consequences. This is one of those cases.

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