Major League Baseball acted properly when it served Braves pitcher John Rocker with a 28-day suspension for comments he made to Sports Illustrated – comments which Commissioner Bud Selig said disparaged practically every element of society.
In the much-publicized article, Rocker managed to malign homosexuals, foreigners and minorities in a tirade against the residents of New York City. He also was quoting as referring to a black teammate as a fat monkey.
Undoubtedly, Major League Baseball has the right to censure behavior such as Rocker’s. Sports Illustrated interviewed Rocker in his capacity as a pitcher for the Atlanta Braves. Through his employment, Rocker acted as a representative of the Braves, bringing ridicule to himself and the organization. Selig cited baseball’s role as an American institution and the important social responsibility that goes with it, in an attempt to place the issue in a larger context,
Baseball has long played an important role in the social consciousness of the nation. Major League Baseball’s color barrier fell in 1947 – seven years before the Supreme Court struck down segregation – as rookie Brooklyn Dodger Jackie Robinson took the field. When rumors spread that certain players planned to boycott games in which Robinson played, then-Commissioner Happy Chandler made it known that any player sitting out in protest of Robinson would receive a lifetime ban.
In its decision to suspend Rocker, Major League Baseball stood by its long heritage of inclusiveness, which began with Jackie Robinson’s integration of the sport in 1947.
In an era when athletes largely shun role-model status, Commissioner Selig ensured that one player will take full responsibility for his inappropriate commentary. With his decision to suspend Rocker, Selig sends a potent message to the rest of baseball – comments like the ones Rocker made are unacceptable.
John Rocker embarrassed himself, the Atlanta Braves and Major League Baseball and received the punishment he rightly deserves.