Suspension doesn’t stop the Rocker reverberations

NEW YORK: When Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig suspended Atlanta Braves pitcher John Rocker last week for racist and homophobic comments made in an interview with Sports Illustrated, he thought he was putting an end to yet another PR crisis. As it turns out, the storm has only just begun.

NEW YORK: When Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig suspended Atlanta Braves pitcher John Rocker last week for racist and homophobic comments made in an interview with Sports Illustrated, he thought he was putting an end to yet another PR crisis. As it turns out, the storm has only just begun.

NEW YORK: When Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig

suspended Atlanta Braves pitcher John Rocker last week for racist and

homophobic comments made in an interview with Sports Illustrated, he

thought he was putting an end to yet another PR crisis. As it turns out,

the storm has only just begun.



Sports PR specialists questioned whether Selig’s actions were largely

ceremonial, given that an appeal filed by the MLB Players’ Union on

Rocker’s behalf will likely result in the suspension being curtailed.

They also wondered whether the commissioner overreacted in punishing a

player for comments made off the field.



Given authority to act ’in the best interests of the game,’ Selig

banished Rocker until May 1 - a punishment substantially more severe

than the one-game suspension given a few years ago to then Baltimore

Oriole Roberto Alomar, who spat on an umpire during a game.



’It’s a judgment call,’ said one team’s PR director. ’I’m not sure that

a player saying ’I hate minorities’ constitutes a crime against

baseball.’



Still, sports PR pros agreed that the Rocker incident had to be

addressed, and quickly. ’(Selig) had an uprising on his hands from all

three of his constituents - owners, players and fans,’ said Alan Taylor

Communications CEO Alan Taylor. Added Ketchum sports VP Jim Tsokanos,

’Baseball had to do something to show its commitment to the communities

he offended. But it’s a John Rocker story, not a baseball one.’



MLB executive director of PR Rich Levin doesn’t believe Rocker’s

comments reflect negatively on the game as a whole. ’Yes, it brought

dishonor to baseball,’ he acknowledged. ’But with 700 players, you’re

going to have the same problems there are in society as a whole.’



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