Mark Walters, son of Barry Walters, wears a 3B Baseball League shirt showing sponsorship by Todd's Guns, a gun shop in Lambertville.
LAMBERTVILLE — If there’s no crying in baseball, there probably shouldn’t be politics, either, but a local gun shop’s sponsorship of a youth baseball team in Bedford Township has some parents crying foul about the message it sends.
The Cubs are an age 6-8 team in the 3B Baseball league. The league is a nonprofit, and 3B officials say they use concession sales and sponsorships to break even.
Todd Bruning wanted to sponsor the Cubs because his two children play on the team. But when players got their jerseys Thursday, some parents were upset that the name of Mr. Bruning’s business — Todd’s Guns of Lambertville — adorned the front of the shirt.
Coach Barry Walters said he wouldn’t let his son wear the jersey. He disagrees with gun shop advertising with a kids’ team, especially after the Sandy Hook massacre in Connecticut that left dozens dead at the elementary school.
“Don’t use my kid as a billboard to promote guns,” he said.
Other parents thought the shirt was inappropriate. Carri Dively wasn’t at practice when the jerseys were distributed, but said she’s glad other parents have raised their concerns. Tom Rogroff said it would be different if the children were older; in adult leagues, players could have had a say in who sponsored the team.
And Amy Barnes said she doesn’t have anything against guns or gun shops, but doesn’t want her son wearing a jersey that advertises for guns.
“I think it was a [bold] move to just assume a parent is fine with their child having something about firearms on a baseball jersey,” she said.
Mr. Bruning said he just wanted to support his kids and the community. His children were excited when they got their jerseys, especially when they saw their father was the sponsor. He said he wasn’t looking to make a political statement or change any minds about gun ownership.
“The money is for the kids,” he said.
League officials said they don’t discriminate against advertisers. The league needs businesses to help cover expenses and defray costs for some kids who can’t afford to play without financial assistance, said Matt Wagenhauser, who handles sponsors and uniforms for 3B.
Mr. Wagenhauser said the league tries to have local businesses advertise and sponsor teams. That preference for keeping things local was what league officials had in mind when they approved Mr. Bruning’s sponsorship.
“This is about kids,” Mr. Wagenhauser said. “It’s not a political message, it’s not an insensitivity to what’s going on in the world.”
Besides, Mr. Wagenhauser said, guns and hunting are not exactly unpopular topics in southeast Michigan, where some schools excuse students for the start of hunting season.
League officials told parents they will pay to cover up “Todd’s Guns” if they object, and Mr. Bruning said he’s fine with that.
“I have no problem with it whatsoever,” he said. “If the parents don’t want guns on their shirt, just give them another shirt.”
Cubs parents said they were OK with the compromise too. The team’s season starts today.
Contact Nolan Rosenkrans at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6086, or on Twitter @NolanRosenkrans.