Roger McDowell is the pitching coach for the Atlanta Braves
Update: After reading the thoughtful comments on this article, I suggest people get a better understanding of the what McDowell said and did. I did not get into the graphic details. If you choose to learn them, please read and watch the links I provided. Thank you and I look forward to more discussion.
This is a difficult article for me to write, not because of the issues behind it, but because I am a long-time Braves fan.
As a Braves fan, I am defensive of my favorite team. It's difficult to maintain my objectively. I don't want them to get unfair criticism and I don't want them to have a negative image.
The Roger McDowell case involves all of these areas, and my thinking process on it has changed greatly since it first began.
McDowell's story has been well told; how he engaged in outrageous on-field conduct in front of fans, including children, while the Braves played in San Francisco.
The conduct included cursing, gay slurs, highly suggestive sexual actions and threats. Major League Baseball responded with a two-week suspension for McDowell. You can find more details here and here if you are not familiar with the incident.
The suspension is drawing increasing attention for its limited scope. Others have pointed out that if this kind of incident happened at a real job, there would no suspension; a firing would quickly follow. I challenge anyone to find me a job at which this would not take place.
What should the Braves do with Roger McDowell?
The Braves need to fire McDowell. I do not write those words easily.
When this incident first happened, I made excuses for McDowell. His first statement said he was being heckled. I speculated maybe he had lost his temper in a difficult situation.
I quickly realized that McDowell’s statement did not include a denial of the allegations against him. Why was he not defending himself?
Next, I moved on to believing that the initial accounts of the situation were exaggerated. There is a strong inclination in today's media to go after anyone with a hint of homophobia. These people are targeted for their antiquated ideas and are often shamed out of the public eye.
While you may or may not agree with this kind of strategy, it is difficult to deny its existence.
I naively believed this was the case. But then I learned of the multiple witness statements about McDowell's behavior. Each of them shared the same information.
The information was of a behavior that simply can't be tolerated in any work or public place.
Even people who disagree with the homosexual life style are often not aggressively degrading of it. I imagine most of them would agree McDowell's behavior is unacceptable in a civil society, let alone a workplace.
It has been suggested and I felt this way for a while, that this is one-time mistake. I often think this about public figures. We are constantly bombarded with information, images and sound bits from public figures.
Every little slip up of an athlete can be played over and over again.
Thankfully, this doesn't happen to the rest of us. There are many times when I’ve said and done stupid things. Thankfully, there weren’t cameras or microphones around to record it. As a result, I often think we have to give public figures a bit of leeway when it comes to verbal phobas.
That standard doesn't apply in this situation.
The firsthand accounts do not reflect a simple verbal misfiring; they report a series of behaviors that are unacceptable in any public or professional setting.
This has been a slow and difficult evolution for me. I wanted to believe McDowell did not do what he was accused of. Then I thought perhaps it was a lapse in judgment brought on by heckling. I then moved to thinking we should excuse this as a one-time mistake.
Now, I think these were all denials stemming from fanhood. I don't want McDowell to be guilty or see him punished, but that feeling doesn't come from any kind of objectivity—it comes from my fandom.
I am now in a place that thinks McDowell should lose his job.
While I am in different place, I am still a fan. I do not want to see my favorite team scarred by this incident. I don't want them to be viewed in a negative light.
To prevent this, they must make the evolution I have made and decide to fire Roger McDowell.