This week provided another installment in the John Rocker saga, but before we discuss this further, let’s get one thing straight: Don’t have sympathy for the man. Rocker is an idiot, true to his nickname, “Rockhead.”
This week’s episode found Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig suspending Rocker for one month and fining him $20,000 for making disparaging remarks about immigrants, minorities, homosexuals and an African-American teammate — whom he dubbed a “fat monkey” — in a recent issue of Sports Illustrated.
Now, I’m a big believer in the First Amendment and freedom of speech. I believe the First Amendment entitles any individual to say whatever is on his mind. However, this doesn’t mean people should not be held accountable for their words or actions. Rocker’s words are without a doubt unacceptable and deplorable.
Many argue that Commissioner Selig has violated Rocker’s First Amendment rights. Well, the First Amendment does protect Rocker’s right to speak out publicly against anyone he chooses. However, he is not protected from repercussions in the private sector, specifically with regard to his place in Major League Baseball.
To those who say, “nothing like this has happened in baseball,” remember Marge Schott, the former majority owner of the Cincinnati Reds. Schott went on record making racist and absurd comments. Schott particularly addressed Adolf Hitler and how “he wasn’t really that bad.” Appropriately, the league suspended Schott and eventually forced her to withdraw her stake in the team. Marge got what she deserved.
Unlike Schott though, Rocker got off easy. I don’t even think he’s sorry for his words of hatred. In a televised interview with Peter Gammons, he claimed that he’s “just a redneck” and that his comments were taken out of context. I saw a man forced to apologize for something that he truly believes.
If Selig has suspended Rocker for the entire season, my heart would not yearn for him. Alas, this is the world of professional sports, where bad people get away with more than the average man.
It is sickening to think of how flawed the culture of American professional sports has become. Think of Latrell Sprewell. There isn’t any other professional domain, other than sports, where someone can get away with choking their boss and not be forced out of their job.
Recall that Sprewell’s contract was terminated by the Golden State Warriors, but was reinstated after the Players Association filed a grievance on his behalf. Sprewell was merely suspended for the remainder of the NBA season. Had Sprewell been a regular “Joe,” management would have fired him immediately.
Like Sprewell, Rocker may have his punishment reduced or repealed, because the Major League Baseball Players Association has filed an official grievance on his behalf. I know this happens almost every time a player is suspended, but come on. This is ridiculous.
Ask the Players Association members how they feel about Rocker’s suspension. I would assume, but optimistically hope otherwise, that there are other players in the union who agree with what Rockhead had to say.
However, my guess is that the vast majority of major leaguers would be in favor of punishing Rocker. If Rocker’s punishment is reduced or repealed, he has a very powerful union to thank.
Whether or not Rocker’s punishment is reduced or repealed, the man is going to have a tough time in Atlanta. Rocker deserves pretty much all the abuse he’ll receive from fans and teammates. I can’t imagine many of Rocker’s teammates took too kindly to his words nor can I imagine that they’ll welcome him back with open arms.
The man has got some repair work to do, and it won’t be easy.
Now, getting back to comparing athletes to the rest of the population, imagine Rocker or Sprewell working for a business firm in the private sector.
How many companies would not fire an employee who either choked his boss or made racist remarks by calling his African-American employer a “fat monkey”? The answer is none.
Rocker should thank God that he can throw a baseball 95 miles an hour or else he would be looking for a new job by now. From now on, Rockhead should keep his mouth shut and just play the game.