Let us count the ways the Greater Cleveland Athletic Association mishandled its response to a mother’s quest to learn what happened to a ball field sign commemorating her late son.
For starters, this should never have been a story. When Amy Spence first asked about the sign, which apparently fell victim to a storm, the GCAA should have quickly pledged to erect the sign anew. Had it done so, the case of the missing sign would never have made headlines in multiple newspapers, including this one.
Instead, when Mrs. Spence and others pressed the matter, the GCAA got testy and defensive, and in doing so, it made things worse.
First, three GCAA board members said they never received the first email Mrs. Spence sent about the missing sign. We’ll take their word for that, though board members did manage to receive and read other emails relating to the sign matter. Our point is this: If just one board member had read and quickly responded to Mrs. Spence’s email, we doubt she would have turned to social media for help.
Second, despite what our colleges and universities tell us, no one has a constitutional right against being offended. GCAA board members said they felt attacked by Spence and others who weighed in on the matter. Our response? So what? The GCAA decides every year how to spend thousands of dollars to serve hundreds of kids playing youth sports in the Cleveland community. Do board members think their decisions are beyond reproach? Do they think they are beyond criticism simply because they are volunteers?
Finally, it was unseemly for the GCAA to demand a public apology from the Spence family. The GCAA, according to its members, had its feelings hurt. Mrs. Spence suffered what no parent can ever completely overcome – the loss of a child. Who deserves more sympathy?
Granted, this newspaper has not been privy to all that transpired between Mrs. Spence and the GCAA. But in reading the stories by our reporter, the GCAA comes across as the bully, not Mrs. Spence. Even worse, the board’s words and actions struck us as insensitive.
This past week, Mrs. Spence agreed to pay for a new sign and to apologize to the GCAA, explaining that she never meant for the matter to get ugly. It would be nice if the GCAA felt obligated to admit its mistakes too.