Georgia Equality commended Major League Baseball and the Atlanta Braves for taking swift action against Atlanta Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell after he was accused of hurling anti-gay slurs at San Francisco Giants fans over Easter weekend. But the statewide LGBT advocacy group says more local action needs to occur.
McDowell was suspended by Major League Baseball for two weeks without pay (he returns to his duties on May 13), ordered to participate in sensitivity training, and fined an undisclosed amount of money for his actions at San Francisco AT&T Park on April 23. McDowell allegedly shouted at fans, "Are you a homo couple or a threesome?" and imitated a sex act with a baseball bat. He also threatened a father who witnessed McDowell's actions and asked the Braves pitching coach to watch his language in front of children.
Georgia Equality hand-delivered a letter to Atlanta Braves President John Schuerholz asking for three things: Firm disciplinary action, reappraisal of sensitivity training for all employees of the club and for the Braves to work to help prevent bullying in schools.
“Major League Baseball got it right and addressed all three of our requests; we want to congratulate them on their decisions to help promote safety, tolerance within the sport of baseball as well as anti-bullying efforts across the country,” says a statement from Georgia Equality issued today.
Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig issued a stern statement when the suspension was announced.
“Major League Baseball is a social institution that brings people together and welcomes all individuals of different races, religions, genders, national origins and sexual orientations into its ballparks. Conduct by people associated with MLB that shows insensitivity to others simply cannot and will not be tolerated,” he said.
“I understand that Mr. McDowell is very contrite about his conduct, and hopefully this incident will be used to increase public awareness of the importance of sensitivity to others,” Selig said.
Georgia Equality praised Selig’s national response, but said the team needs to do more locally.
“While this is a great step nationally, the lack of a local response is still troubling. The Atlanta Braves have yet to respond to our letter and there has been no change in the Braves organization specifically. The decision for punishment for McDowell, an undisclosed fine, requirement for sensitivity training and a two-week ban, came down from Major League Baseball rather than the Braves. This is worrying because, while it was an individual act that caused the damage, there seems to be a team culture that has perpetuated this intolerance for over a decade,” the statement reads.
“In 1999, [former Braves pitcher] John Rocker blasted an anti-gay and racist tirade to a reporter; the fall-out of the rant launched an extensive investigation and a diverse coalition formed to condemn his actions.
“While this event was 12 years apart from the incident with McDowell, the Braves are one of the only Major League Baseball team that has had this virulent and recurring problem. Beyond individual punishments, the Braves need to take a moment to look at themselves and consider what team culture they want to engender. What is the face they want to reflect to themselves and to their community? Where is the local action stemming from the team that started this firestorm?” according to Georgia Equality.
“The Braves were the cause of this controversy and we expect more from the leaders of their organization,” GE states.