Georgia Equality hand-delivered a letter to Braves President John Schuerholz on Thursday, likening the coach’s behavior to that of a “bully.” Executive Director Jeff Graham said he was disappointed the team was undergoing this kind of scrutiny again after the incident in which former Atlanta Braves relief pitcher John Rocker famously made anti-gay and racist comments in an interview with Sports Illustrated in 1999.
“As one of the leaders of the coalition that formed to condemn those comments, I cannot express how profoundly disappointed I am that this has once again happened. What is perhaps most troubling is that unlike John Rocker, Roger McDowell serves in a leadership position within the organization. Without firm disciplinary action, others will assume this his casual use of anti-gay speed and threats of physical violence is somehow tolerable,” Graham said.
The Braves have promised to investigate the incident.
“We were made aware of an incident in San Francisco this past Saturday,” the Braves said in a statement. “We are concerned by these allegations and the behavior described by a witness …. This in no way represents the Braves organization and the conduct we expect of our employees. We will withhold further comments until we finish gathering information.”
Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig also issued a statement, saying the allegations were “troubling.”
“I was informed today that Roger McDowell, a coach of the Atlanta Braves, is being accused of engaging in highly inappropriate conduct toward fans at a game in San Francisco. Although I do not yet have all the facts regarding this incident, the allegations are very troubling to me. The Atlanta Braves have assured my office that they will immediately investigate the allegations, and report the results of the investigation to me. After I have all the facts, I will make a determination of how to proceed,” Selig said.
Openly gay Cubs fan Jerry Pritkin, 74, came to his McDowell’s defense, saying the Braves coach was a “good guy.”
“Being openly gay, I understand why some people would be disturbed, as I was,” Pritikin said. “But he made an apology and I accept that.”
In 2006, the Atlanta Braves also angered the LGBT community when the sponsored the first “Faith Day” in the MLB that included the anti-gay Focus on the Family. At the game, Focus on the Family representatives handed out pamphlets for its Troubledwith.com website that features anti-gay content, including stating homosexuality is a development problem and also likened gay people to pedophiles.
In response to the backlash from gay fans, the the Braves disinvited Focus on the Family from participating in future Faith Day events.
Top photo: Atlanta Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell (via mlb.com)