Minor league owner says he’ll meet with religious leaders

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NORWICH, Conn. (AP) — The owner of two minor league baseball teams who had refused to meet with a Muslim civil rights group said Friday he will host a gathering of leaders of various faiths.

E. Miles Prentice III said he is committed to providing a welcoming environment at baseball games. He is the owner of the Single-A Connecticut Tigers and co-owner of the Double-A Midland (Texas) RockHounds. Prentice did not say who would be invited to the meeting.

His statement comes a day after he accused the Connecticut chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations of supporting terrorists.

The group had sought a meeting with Prentice after expressing concern over his role as board chairman of the Center for Security Policy, a conservative think tank identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an anti-Muslim hate group.

Prentice said there will never be a religious test for attending baseball games at ballparks with which he is affiliated.

“After a short, long-planned family vacation next week, I will be meeting with influential leaders of various faith communities to affirm my personal commitment to welcoming and serving all of our fans, irrespective of their religious beliefs, if any, as we have always done,” he said.

Tark Aouadi, the executive director of CAIR, Connecticut, said he has not been invited to any meeting, but would welcome it, as long as Muslims are represented.

He said the community just wants to make sure hate does not play a role in how people are treated when they attend baseball games.

“The Muslim community of Norwich is concerned that these beliefs could place another pin in the map of disturbed individuals who might wish to incite death and destruction because of their beliefs in white supremacy and the narrative that has been supported by information from groups like the Center for Security Policy,” he said.

Prentice said Thursday he is not a bigot. But he also said he considers the SPLC “radical leftists” and has no plans to meet with CAIR.

“We see no utility, however, to meeting with, or otherwise legitimating, those who seek to silence us or are associated with terrorist organizations like Hamas,” he said.

Norwich Mayor Peter Nystrom, a Republican, said he will help facilitate the meeting, which he said will include Muslims. He said he has looked at the Center for Security website and doesn’t like some of what is on it, but also does not agree with some of what CAIR has said in the past.

He said the issue has been overblown and there has never been religious discrimination at Dodd Stadium.

“The city owns the stadium,” he said. “We celebrate diversity. We welcome everyone. It’s unfortunate that you have national issues being forced down on a Single-A baseball team. Baseball is a universal sport. Everybody plays. Everybody is welcome.”

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