Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell was suspended for two weeks without pay for inappropriate conduct toward fans before an April 23 game at San Francisco, allegedly including anti-gay slurs and sexually suggestive comments.
McDowell was also fined an undisclosed amount and will be required to participate in sensitivity training. The penalties were announced Sunday by Major League Baseball.
“Conduct by people associated with MLB that shows insensitivity to others simply cannot and will not be tolerated,” Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement.
There had been speculation McDowell, 50, might lose his job over the incident, and the Braves didn’t say before Sunday whether that was being considered. He was placed on administrative leave Friday. The suspension is retroactive to Friday.
“I want to reiterate that we are deeply concerned when we heard about the accusations regarding Roger,” Braves president John Schuerholz said in a statement, “and we took our investigation very seriously to investigate all the facts. We agree with the discipline that the commissioner has handed down.
“We were clearly disappointed in Roger’s remarks and actions and the Atlanta Braves organization does not tolerate that kind of behavior.”
Giants fan Justin Quinn, 33, issued a complaint against McDowell after an incident during batting practice before the Braves-Giants game at AT&T Park.
Quinn, 33, hired celebrity attorney Glorida Allred, who had a press conference at her Los Angeles office on Wednesday. Quinn accused McDowell of saying, “Are you a homo couple or a threesome?” to fans who were sitting in the left-field seats, and of simulating a sex act with a baseball bat.
Quinn, seated nearby with his 9-year-old twin daughters, said he asked McDowell to clean up his language in front of children.
Allred said McDowell responded by saying “Kids don’t [expletive] belong at the baseball park.” (Another fan sent a letter to MLB two days after the incident that corroborated much of what Quinn said, although this fan claimed McDowell said that kids belonged in the upper deck, not down near the field.)
Quinn also claimed that McDowell walked toward him in a threatening manner, holding a bat, and asked him, “How much are your teeth worth?”
McDowell has not been available to the media since the story broke on Wednesday. He said in a statement issued Sunday, “I understand the decision made today by the Commissioner. I am embarrassed by my actions and I plan to give a personal apology to Mr. Quinn and his family. I would also like to offer a public and heartfelt apology to the fans of San Francisco, to the Atlanta Braves organization, my family and to Major League Baseball.”
Braves minor league pitching coordinator Dave Wallace will continue as interim pitching coach until McDowell returns.
“It’s tough when you lose a very important part of your coaching staff, but Dave Wallace is very competent,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “We’ll get through it. We’ll get through it as a team and an organization, and it may … build us together.”
McDowell is the first Brave suspended for inflammatory remarks since John Rocker after Rocker’s 1999 bigoted comments in a Sports Illustrated article. Rocker was fined $20,000 by Major League Baseball and suspended for a month, but sanctions were reduced to a $500 fine and a two-week suspension by an arbitrator.
Schuerholz was general manager of the Braves at the time of the Rocker incident.
“The Atlanta Braves organization prides itself on being one that values integrity, diversity, professionalism and respect,” Schuerholz said Sunday. “We are looking forward to putting this incident behind us and have the focus on the team be back on the playing field.”
Quinn and his family will be invited to attend a future game in San Francisco as guests of MLB.
“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. “I commend Justin Quinn and his family for bringing this issue to our attention so that it will not happen again in the future.”