World Series Trophies, Hall of Fame Items, Baseball History Held Hostage by Animal Rescue Foundation
Walnut Creek, Calif. — (3.10.23)—Attorneys for Tony La Russa and his family have demanded the return of Tony La Russa’s personal collection of his baseball career memorabilia and gifts to the family from other stars that the family has allowed to be displayed at the Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF). The deadline for ARF to allow the family members to come to ARF was March 8, 2023. ARF has refused to comply, the La Russa family attorney said today.
“We made a very reasonable request: to set up a mutually convenient time for a family member to come to ARF to begin removing some of the most valuable personal belongings from ARF, and to photograph and make a list of remaining items. We offered to coordinate this with ARF and to have ARF supervise the removal,” said La Russa family attorney Shauna N. Correia of the Weintraub Tobin law firm.
Instead of complying with the request, ARF board president Greg McCoy, an attorney at Gagen McCoy, has banned Mr. La Russa and his family from coming to ARF or retrieving their belongings, writing that “for reasons that should be obvious, the La Russa family will not be allowed on ARF property” to collect the family’s mementos. ARF has given no justification for refusing to comply.
Meanwhile, instead of allowing the La Russas to come and retrieve their personal items, ARF has been busy, prioritizing things like removing signage with the La Russa name from the building and scrubbing the La Russa name from websites – all actions that the family gave ARF 90 days to accomplish.
“There is no cause for ARF to hold hostage our family’s valuable personal belongings. Our family has taken the high road during this very difficult time, but this is baffling and extremely upsetting. My awards, trophies, rings and Hall of Fame induction mementos are at ARF. The guitar that Bruce Springsteen gifted to me as part of the 2006 World Series Championship is there,” said Tony La Russa.
“The outpouring of support for our family at this difficult time has meant so much to us,” said ARF co-founder Elaine LaRussa. “And I can’t understand why ARF is making one of the most heartbreaking times of our lives even more painful by withholding some of our most sentimental belongings.”
“ARF’s public statement that they desire to rebrand ARF and wish an amicable split with the La Russa family is inconsistent with ARF’s actual conduct so far,” said Correia. “In addition, we have confirmed that the alleged March 1 vote to disengage with the La Russa family never occurred.” “Several members have come to me, separately, and stated that no such vote occurred.” said La Russa.
The La Russa family presented at the March 1 board meeting to discuss the disheartening Lovebug situation and to appeal to ARF’s board to make meaningful improvements.
The family had allowed ARF to keep their personal sports and entertainment memorabilia on display at the foundation as a visual reminder of the organization’s beginnings. The collection also attracted thousands of visitors who, while there, might be inspired to adopt a dog or cat or learn about ARF’s mission.
It also helped draw donations to ARF to help the organization rescue animals and find them forever homes. Now, since the La Russas have made the decision to disengage, they would like their valuable collection returned without delay. Although ARF has started taking steps to rebrand, the Board is inexplicably refusing to turn over the family’s belongings. The La Russa family continues to hope that ARF’s board will simply cooperate, rather than force the family to litigate, which would divert ARF’s resources away from the care of the animals.
The La Russa family founded the Tony La Russa Animal Rescue Foundation, which saves dogs and cats who have run out of time at public shelters, and seeks to place them in forever homes. The organization’s pet-assisted therapy programs further strengthen ARF’s dual mission of People Rescuing Animals…Animals Rescuing People® by sharing the many benefits of companion animals with children, seniors, U.S. military veterans, and others. One of the programs Tony La Russa is most proud of is the “Pets and Vets” program, which matches veterans with service dogs in training and emotional support animals, free of charge.
The foundation has its origin from May 7, 1990, when, during a game for Major League Baseball teams the Oakland Athletics and the New York Yankees, a stray cat wandered onto the playing field at Oakland–Alameda County Coliseum. The game was halted as the cat ran around the field.
La Russa (then manager of the Oakland A’s) coaxed the cat into the dugout, and began looking for a local shelter to re-home the cat. Tony and Elaine could not find a shelter, and learned that the cat would most likely be euthanized. They decided to open their own shelter, and in February of the following year, Tony La Russa’s Animal Rescue Foundation opened.
The La Russa family formally served ties with ARF on March 3. The family sent a cease and desist letter demanding that ARF cease using the La Russa names, likenesses, social media accounts, and quotes, within the next 90 days and remove Tony La Russa’s name from the organization originally founded by the La Russas in 1991 as “Tony La Russa’s Animal Rescue Foundation.”
The concerns by the La Russa family about ARF have been brewing for several years.
In 2021, the La Russa family resigned from the ARF board, but agreed to remain loosely affiliated with ARF to aid in its fundraising efforts while ARF allegedly worked to make changes. But, in the past two years, ARF has not meaningfully addressed any of the concerns that the La Russa family raised, and continues to make decisions that the family cannot in good conscience, support – like the nearly-tragic Lovebug situation.
In spite of disconnecting from ARF, the La Russas remain extremely passionate about animal welfare, and they continue to support and devote time, energy and resources to this worthy cause through a variety of organizations.
Contact: Sam Singer
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