Krystle Newquist, a 14-year-old first baseman from Lemont, Ill., says that after learning recently that her late grandfather had been an alcoholic and had died of cirrhosis of the liver, she couldn't swallow what she considers the hypocrisy of playing for a Little League softball team sponsored by a bar. Krystle played for the same team—the Foxes, sponsored by a local tavern called The Carousel—last year with no objection; but before this season's first game she covered the bar's name on her uniform with duct tape. Lemont league officials invoked a rule saying all players must wear unaltered, identical uniforms. When Krystle continued to show up with the taped shirt, she was kicked off the team. She then asked the school board to prohibit the Little League from holding games on school property unless the league banned bars from sponsoring teams. "Why is it O.K. to advertise a tavern on the backs of children?" she asked the board last week.
Well, the tavern is hardly conducting a full-scale ad campaign. It simply ponied up $250 to subsidize a team, as it has done since 1974. "Believe me," says Tim O'Brien, The Carousel's co-owner, "we didn't sponsor a girls' soft-ball team to get more customers." Granting Krystle's request would also create a slippery slope. Should the Little League refuse sponsorship from, say, Pizza Hut or Piggly Wiggly, since those establishments also sell alcohol?
"We have a policy that prohibits direct advertising of alcohol and tobacco," says Lance VanAuken, a Little League Baseball spokesman. "When it's more of a gray area, we leave it up to the local leagues." As O'Brien says, "You'd think you'd want as many businesses as possible helping kids to play sports in the summer."