- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 3, 2006

The hue of the Lerner group was not sufficiently splashed in the colors that reflect the rich diversity of the city in the narrow judgment of D.C. Council members Vincent B. Orange Jr. and Marion Barry.

There is not an Asian in the baseball ownership mix, as far as anyone can tell, if that is only what the two council members meant.

The adherence to a quota system is incredibly daunting work if the racial bean counters intend to be consistent.

David A. Catania, at-large independent, struck an agreeable note around the disagreeable Mr. Orange and Mr. Barry. He saw no reason to limit the call for diversity to blacks. There are all kinds in the city, not just black and white. There are women, to be sure. And there are Hispanics, Muslims, homosexuals, American Indians and illegal aliens. There are socialists, anarchists, isolationists, atheists and an unimaginable number of groups that could clamor to be represented by the Lerner group.

Mr. Catania didn’t exactly frame the debate so broadly, but his point has applications beyond his chosen ones.

“The last time I checked, we had a lot of women in this city,” he said. “The last time I checked, we had a lot of Asians and Latinos and gays in the city.” In fact, the Lerner group has a female investor and a Panamanian-born one. The Lerner group cannot possibly check all the boxes on the diversity form, though try it might.

The Lerner group attempted to shore up its diversity flank in recent weeks by luring several prominent minorities to its fold. This was deemed inadequate, if not so much window-dressing intended to silence the critics. That criticism is unfair. The racial bean counters long ago designed this slope, slippery as it is.

Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig labored with two mutually exclusive goals. His principal priority was to have an ownership group whose pockets are deep and whose commitment to the city is unyielding. He also championed the notion of diversity. But the latter is far less important than the former.

The makeup of the Lerner group will not matter a bit once its stewardship can be evaluated. That is how it usually goes in business, with the two principal colors being red and black. The Lerner group is not apt to reprise the operations of the Senators, both the first and second versions.

Mayor Anthony A. Williams has staked a good portion of his political legacy to a publicly funded ballpark transforming the hardscrabble area along the Anacostia River waterfront in Southeast. The outcome of his gamble won’t be known for a number of years. And part of the outcome will be dependent on the product on the field.

The power of a ballpark to revitalize a neighborhood can cut a lot of different ways. The arteries around Jacobs Field in downtown Cleveland become desolate soon after the final out.

None of this, of course, has much to do with the perceived rainbow shortcomings of the Lerner group. Its principals could be purple so long as the Nationals become a viable franchise. Winning, after all, is the condition that unifies everyone.

The petty noise of the D.C. Council will be soon forgotten, and the Lerner group will succeed or fail on its own merit.

The old buildings on Half Street have been razed, a groundbreaking ceremony is scheduled today, and the Nationals are finally in position to be on equal footing with the rest of the teams in Major League Baseball.

The Lerners are genuine builders and businessmen with a keen eye on the bottom line. Their arrival is a sure sign that the D.C. Council’s amateur-hour auditions are coming to a close.

The half-baked resolution of Mr. Barry and Mr. Orange was the last gasp of a political body that acted adolescent around baseball.

Mr. Selig now gets to work with adults regarding the future of the Nationals.

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