JANUARY 14, 2000 • HOUSTON VOICE
Braves pitcher says he spoke like a 'jerk'
by LAURA BROWN
Just days after he was ordered to undergo psychological
evaluation, Atlanta Braves relief pitcher admitted
Wednesday that his comments about minorities and gays in
a magazine article made him sound like "a complete jerk."
In his first interview since the uproar, the 25-year-old
relief pitcher spoke to ESPN at his home in Macon, and
again apologized, repeating that he is not a racist.
Major League Baseball last week ordered Rocker to
undergo psychological evaluation to help determine what
was in his head when he railed against racial and ethnic
minorities, women, immigrants and "a queer with AIDS" in
an interview last month.
But there is no simple psychological diagnosis to explain
bigotry, psychologists pointed out, while a coalition of
activists in Atlanta warned nothing less than "Rocker's
head on a platter" will dissuade them from launching pickets and protests against the Braves.
"It seems to me this is stalling by the commissioner of
baseball," Dr. James Jones, a professor of psychology at the
University of Delaware, told the Houston Voice. "\ don't see
any basis for psychological evaluation—he didn't engage in
any bizarre behavior.
"He said things that are intemperate and inappropriate,
but people say things like that all the time," said Jones, an
expert in both racism and sports psychology. "He is a bigoted guy, but you can't explain that by suggesting he is not
competent mentally, which is kind of the implication ot having to undergo psychological evaluation."
Alvin F. Poussaint, a clinical professor of psychiatry at
1 larvard Medical School, offered a similar assessment, calling the plan a "dodge" because "psychological testing is not
set up to evaluate racism."
Racism and prejudice are not listed in the American
Psychiatric Association's manual of mental disorders,
Poussaint noted in the New York Times, and "officially, mental health professionals believe racism is so common in
America that it represents a social problem rather than personal pathotog
Activists opposing Rocker's statements agreed.
"John Rocker is not crazy. 1 lis hateful remarks are not a
result of what is in his head, but rather a result of a hate-
filled heart," said Michael Langtord, president of the United
Youth-Adult Conference, which organized a protest Jan. 7 in
front of the Braves stadium at Turner Field.
Although several of Atlanta's most prominent gay organizations were among those participating in the local protest,
some also e\pre^>ed frustration that Rocker's comments
against gavs and people with AIDS appeared to be getting
less and less attention as the story continued.
After promising action would take place in January,
Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig issued a statement last
week calling Rocker's comments 'reprehensible and completely inexcusable."
"1 am profoundly concerned about the nature of those
comments as well as by certain other aspects of his behavior," Selig said, explaining that he will take "whatever additional action" deemed necessary after the psychological
tests are completed.
Braves President Stan Kasten and General Manager John
Schuerholz held a press conference the same day, reiterating
their disagreement with Rocker's comments, but saying
they would wait for a decision from Major League Baseball
before taking further action.
Kasten and Schuerholz said Rocker apologized for the
remarks in a meeting with them on Dec. 29, and Kasten suggested Rocker may be able to stay with the team.
At a protest fan. 7. >onie accused the Braves of "passing
the buck" on Rocker's punishment. But Braves spoke
Jim Schult/ told the ice it wasn't the team that
decided Major League Baseball would handle the problem.
"II was our intention to handle this until Major League
Baseball stepped in and said, 'We feel this affects the entire
sport,'" Schultz said.
"Whatever they do would not preclude a different action
by the Braves," he added.
In the ESPN interview Wednesday, Rocker pointed out
that teammates Andruw Jones, Bruce Chen and Odalis
Perez—all minorities from outside the U.S.—lived with his
family in Macon while they were playing for the Braves
minor league affiliate in Macon.
"If I was a racist, would I want a black guy living in my
house and would I invite him to come to my house? 1 did
that three times over," Rocker said.
Other than a brief written statement, the interview marked
the first time Rocker spoke publicly about the controversy.
Rocker said he "just lost (his) cool" and said things he
didn't mean about New York fans because he wanted "to
inflict some emotional pain in retaliation to the pain that
had been inflicted on me."
Rocker said he was frustrated by New York Yankees'
fans who threw batteries at
him during the World Series.
He said Mets' fans spit in
his face, poured beer on him ^
and beat a likeness of him i
during the NL Champ- 5
"You hit one home run in *
the big leagues, it doesn't ^
make you a home-run hitter," Rocker said. "To make
one comment like this doesn't make you a racist."
Under orders from Major
League Baseball, John Rocker
evaluation last week.
M 94 > *
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