Off his Rocker?
By biconews On 1 Feb, 2000 At 05:00 AM | Categorized As Archives | With 0 Comments

By Marc Robert

Anyone who glanced at the spoils pages over winter break learned about the uproar surrounding Atlanta Braves relief pitcher John Rocker. But, for those who did not, here’s a recap:

In late December, John Rocker, a hard-throwing closer for the Atlanta Braves, unleashed a verbal onslaught on a host of minority groups in an interview conducted by Sports Illustrated. Rocker lashed out after having been asked his opinion of New York City, the site of three intense NLCS games in the fall between the Mets and Braves. He was quoted as saying that “the biggest thing I don’t like about New York is the foreigners…how did they get into the country?” He also ridiculed gays, teenage mothers, and those he judged

as social outcasts.

Rocker and New York have been oil and water from the start: Rocker is an outspoken, self-proclaimed “redneck” from Macon, Georgia, and New York is a kaleidoscope of different

ethnicities. Often unable to simply ignore common heckling, Rocker would enter the game in the late-innings and tangle with fans. Soon verbal battles turned physical, however, as some fans took to pelting him with D batteries and showering him with stale beer.

No one was expecting John Rocker to express any contrition or forgiveness in the interview, but Rocker’s racist rhetoric was just as unexpected. In October Rocker had disparaged Mets fans in general, but no one thought he would go so far as to denigrate New York’s culturally diverse population.

John Rocker has since apologized for his narrow-minded comments and, in an interview with ESPN’s Peter Gammons, he denied being a racist. He cited as evidence his friendships with several minority players on the Braves, including Andruw Jones and Bruce Chen. They have come forth to vouch for him, while simultaneously expressing their shock and disappointment at Rocker’s outburst.

Known for his fiery character both on and off the field, Rocker explained that while his remarks were inexcusable, they sprung from a desire to “inflict some kind of verbal punishment” on the New Yorkers who had tormented him during the season. He said that he never thought a mere relief pitcher could stir up such a furor.

Punitive action by the Braves and Major League Baseball has yet to be taken; however, he is sure to receive a lengthy suspension as well as hefty fine. Of course, these measures pale in comparison to what he can expect June 29 upon his return to Shea Stadium for the Mets first home game against the Braves.

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