I was in Washington over the weekend and saw this article in the Washington Post. It articulates perfectly (in my opinion) the hypocrisy of Major League Baseball in it's handling of morally sensitive issues i.e. Strawberry, Rocker, Rose, Shoeless Joe, etc.
Punishment Comes In Many Forms
By Thomas Boswell/Washington Post
Friday, March 3, 2000; Page D01
This week Darryl Strawberry, who primarily hurt himself with
his drug relapse, was suspended from baseball for a year.
Reportedly deep in debt, he also lost a $750,000 contract. His
career probably is over.
Also this week, John Rocker, who hurt all of baseball and
offended almost everybody in America, saw his suspension
reduced from 28 days of the regular season to 14 by an
arbitrator. His fine was cut from $20,000 to $500. And the
Atlanta Braves re-signed him on Wednesday to a one-year,
Hurt yourself, get the guillotine. Hurt everybody else, report
to spring training.
So much for common sense.
These are strange days, indeed. If you have a disease such as
drug addiction that can destroy your life, and you succumb to
demons that many of us cannot even imagine, you get what is
tantamount to a life sentence.
But if, speaking on the record in a national magazine, you rip
off a succession of bigoted, hate-filled and stereotypical
insults, your employer gives you a new contract and your
industry finds itself powerless to discipline you appropriately.
Many say complex issues of free speech, employee rights,
disciplinary precedent and labor-management relations are
involved in the Rocker case. That's true. But so is something
else. Pro sport talks a good game against bigotry. But, in the
hundred gray areas where unspoken agendas are set, enough
isn't done about it. If baseball deeply desired more minority
owners, more minority executives, more urban baseball
programs, fewer brazen Marge Schotts and fewer punk
Rockers, that's how it would be. Baseball has had 50 years to
change. It hasn't. Not enough.
Now we have Rocker. The case has been made--in his
behalf--that he comes from an affluent, educated family in
Macon, Ga. His father is a lawyer, his mother a teacher.
Examples have been cited of open-minded behavior by Rocker
and his family that seem inconsistent with racist attitudes. It's
been reported that Rocker's SAT scores were 1,270, book smart
by any standard.
Help me here. Why does this make his comments more
tolerable? Ignorance and poverty are sometimes cited as
mitigating circumstances in explaining racism. What is
Actually, he may have some. He was a hyperactive child. He
has an explosive temper. In baseball parlance, he has size-10
rabbit ears. And, apparently, in an "I-hate-those-
foulmouthed-Mets-fans" riff to a Sports Illustrated reporter, he
flipped into bullpen-maniac mode and went off the deep end.
More knowledge of Rocker may put his remarks in the context
of his larger problems--especially his issues with anger. But all
that doesn't let Rocker off the hook.
When it comes to intolerance and bigotry, words are acts. You
don't have to wear a white sheet to perform a racist deed.
Rocker's words qualify easily. Is Rocker, in his heart-of-hearts,
a bigot? That's unknowable. He says he's not. But his words, in
a public forum, speaking as a famous baseball player, were an
unmistakably bigoted act. Unfortunately, Rocker doesn't seem
to get it. Not yet. That was clear yesterday.
Rocker's news conference apology at the Braves' training camp
may not do him much good. He said many of the right words.
But he did a lousy job of delivering his speech. He read fast,
dashing through the painful experience as quickly as possible.
He kept his eyes down. His demeanor seemed to imply he felt
he was a victim of some kind. Then he took no questions.
Subject closed. Were the words his own? He certainly didn't
seem to "inhabit" them, as actors say.
Even Rocker's statement missed the point. He addressed three
issues, as if they were even remotely comparable. He
apologized for cursing--a bad example to kids. He apologized
for calling a Latin teammate a "fat monkey." And, oh yes, stuck
in between those two, he apologized for making comments
that might make people think--mistakenly, he says--that he is a
In short, Rocker wasn't as concerned with making clear that he
understood the harm he has done, as he was consumed with
casting the whole incident as some awful angry mistake that
didn't reflect his true nature. Unfortunately, this is the classic
adolescent view: Judge me on my true feelings, the real me,
not on what I actually do. In the adult world, nobody cares
much about your true feelings. But your actions, and words,
matter a lot. That's called being responsible.
The Rocker saga has brought out the wise responses in many.
Former Atlanta mayor Andrew Young said, "You don't destroy
a 25-year-old for one mistake." Tony Gwynn said he thought
the suspension was fair but that now, as the public and the boo
birds get a piece of him, Rocker will find out "what he's made
of." Players have said Rocker's words made them ashamed to
be big leaguers. Yet many have also said they're ready to
accept Rocker's apologies.
A major league clubhouse is a place where a hundred personal
flaws and foibles must be overlooked, endured or understood
before a team can truly be a team. If you think what Rocker
said was bad, you haven't been in locker rooms for the last 25
years. What athletes have heard each other say or seen each
other do would curl your hair. It's not a place where
judgmental people function well. The crude, passionate,
inspiring, screwed-up human circus is pressed flush up
against your face every day. If you can't take people as they
come--an amazing range of people--you better get out. No
wonder no-holds-barred humor is the antidote.
In such a world, every player knows that the process of
forgiving, or at least forgetting, is essential to the team. And to