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Youth baseball official suspended for racial slur

Updated: March 25, 2012 8:14AM



An Oak Lawn man who was suspended this week as president of a youth baseball organization after posting a racial slur on his Facebook page said his life has been “ruined” by the repercussions.

John Kelly, who used the “n-word” in a post about the death of singer Whitney Houston, said he’s not a racist and didn’t realize he had posted the word. His comments were re-posted to the Westside Baseball of Oak Lawn Facebook page and have created a stir.

Kelly said he suggested to the board of the baseball group that he attend sensitivity training classes but conceded that it will be difficult to change the perception that he is a racist.

“I don’t need this drama in my life. It’s going to affect me hugely and my business,” said Kelly, a self-employed tradesman.

And his children will be exposed to taunts that their father is a racist, he said.

On his Facebook page, Kelly expressed his frustration with the media’s coverage of the death of Houston, who was found dead Feb. 11 in a hotel room bathroom. A cause of death has not been determined, but Houston struggled with drug abuse, and Kelly thought the media was glorifying her.

His post read, in part, “I’m so sick of reading about this dumb stupid N----- Whitney Houston.”

Kelly said the singer should not be a role model for children and that he especially resented New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s order to have flags flown at half-staff at state buildings on the day of Houston’s funeral.

“I do stand behind everything I said except the ‘n-word.’ I regret using that (word),” he said. “Does that make me a racist? Are you kidding me? It was the farthest thing from my mind. I have some amazing friends who are black.”

He said he saw numerous posts in which people expressed sympathy for Houston and responded.

“I didn’t even realize I put it (‘n-word’) in (the post) until after I sent it,” he said.

Kelly said his Facebook page is restricted to adult friends and family, but a mother of a former Westside player saw his comments and re-posted them on her Facebook page as well as on the league’s page.

Kelly said he does not know what motivated the woman, who is black, to re-post his comments. He said her son is a friend of his son, the boys played together on Westside’s tournament team that played in Cooperstown, N.Y., and they also have vacationed together.

The woman, who asked not to be identified, said she posted Kelly’s remark so other parents would know about it.

The baseball league’s board suspended Kelly as president at a meeting on Monday. He will remain on the board but also was banned from coaching for one year.

Acting league president Jim Hebel said the board struggled with the appropriate way to handle the situation.

“He’s wrong. He knows it. He apologized,” Hebel said. “How you deal with it is up for debate. Have we done enough, and is what we’ve done right? We try to separate John Kelly as a person and John Kelly as the president of Westside.”



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