Baseball: Allegations of racism may mean the end for Schott: David Usborne reports from Washington on a problem for Cincinnati's outspoken baseball owner

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MIX baseball with racial politics in America and you are certain to get a spectacular reaction. So it is in a case that has occupied the front pages here this week over allegations that Marge Schott, owner of the Cincinnati Reds, once called a black outfielder her 'million-dollar nigger'.

The imbroglio that has now overtaken Schott, the Red's principal owner since 1984, may end in her being forced by the Major League to sell her stake. A committee set up to investigate the allegations is expected to report to an owners' meeting in Louisville, Kentucky, next Monday.

Schott, perhaps best known for her relentless promotion of her pet St Bernard, Schottzie, as her team's mascot, has denied uttering the racial slurs. She admitted, however, that she owned a Nazi swastika arm-band.

The charges first surfaced in a lawsuit filed against her by a former employee who claims he was dismissed for opposing a racially biased hiring policy in the Reds' administration office. Schott did not deny that she may in the past have used the terms 'nigger', 'Jap' and 'money-grubbing Jews', but said that she would only have used them 'kiddingly'.

Since her deposition was made public, however, several other former associates of Schott have come forward. One related that Schott once said during a conference call with other team owners that she would rather 'have a trained monkey working for me than a nigger.'

It seems unlikely that she will survive the controversy. Hank Aaron, senior vice-president of the Atlanta Braves, is among many in the game to say she should go regardless. 'This person has no business being involved in baseball or society at all with what she thinks of blacks and Jews,' he said.

Some black community leaders have meanwhile called on other Major League teams to boycott the Cincinnati Reds while Schott remains.

The Reds' black shortstop Barry Larkin, the team's highest paid player, said he will leave the club if the allegations are upheld. Larkin is going to Louisville on Monday for a protest being organised by the Reverend Jesse Jackson at the owners' meeting.

As the screw tightened, two of the Reds' co-owners asked Schott to resign yesterday, while Senator Howard Metzenbaum said he would bring up the issue at a Senate hearing next week.