- Jerry Crasnick, ESPN.com MLB Sr. Writer
- 0 Shares
John Rocker claims that sensitivity training is a "farce," and adds that he never paid a dime of the $500 fine levied against him for racist and homophobic remarks six years ago.
According to Major League Baseball, Rocker either has a bad memory or an overly active imagination.
"Consider the source," said Rich Levin, a spokesman for commissioner Bud Selig's office.
Levin said that MLB received confirmation from Rocker's then-agent that the pitcher donated $500 to charity, in accordance with an arbitrator's ruling.
In response to Rocker's contention that he spent 15 minutes in sensitivity training before leaving the room, Levin said the Braves' employee assistance program informed MLB that Rocker fulfilled the requirements necessary to complete the training.
"What actually happened in those sensitivity classes, we don't know," Levin said. "He might have slept through the whole thing, but at the end of it, we did receive verification that he attended [the meetings]."
Selig's reputation for enforcing discipline took a hit last week when Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen told ESPNdeportes.com that he was not sure he would attend sensitivity classes as mandated by the commissioner's office. MLB also slapped Guillen with an undisclosed fine after he used a homosexual epithet to describe Chicago Sun-Times columnist Jay Mariotti.
Rocker, a former teammate of Guillen's in Atlanta, lashed out at Selig on Monday in an interview with the Chicago Tribune, calling the commissioner a "scared little man" who uses fines and suspensions as a way to "get people off his [backside]."
"This is a free country. If he wants to use a lewd term, he should be able to use a lewd term," Rocker told the newspaper. "Can't you use a lewd term in America if you want?"
In 1999, Rocker got himself in trouble after telling Sports Illustrated that he would never play for a New York team because he didn't want to ride a train "next to some queer with AIDS." He also bashed immigrants, saying, "How the hell did they get in this country?"
Rocker also called a black teammate a "fat monkey," spit on a toll machine and mocked Asian women.
Selig banned Rocker from baseball until May 1, hit him with a $20,000 fine and ordered the pitcher to attend sensitivity training. But an arbitrator reduced the suspension to the first two weeks of the season, cut the fine to $500 and allowed Rocker to report to spring training on March 2.
"I never paid a cent. A lot of players never pay a cent," Rocker told the Tribune. "It's just a front to look good and the way Selig cowers to pressure."
A prominent player agent and American League executive, both of whom spoke to ESPN.com on the condition of anonymity, expressed skepticism that Rocker would have skated without paying his $500 fine.
"Baseball keeps a record of it," the club official said. "If you don't pay, they send another letter to the player and copy the club and say, 'If you don't pay, there'll be a penalty.' I'm guessing he paid it and probably didn't know he paid it."
As to whether players actually pay their fines, both the executive and agent said that's the generally accepted practice in baseball. But they said clubs sometimes draw distinctions depending on the nature of the offense.
"Over the years, some clubs have paid for players if they felt like they wanted to back their players," the agent said. "An example of a club paying might be on the fine for a retaliation pitch. An example of where a club wouldn't pay would be if a player were disciplined for off-field activities."
Guillen, after initially expressing doubt that he would attend sensitivity training, said he will comply with Selig's directive and take part in the classes.
"Ozzie is going to attend those classes, you can be sure of that," Levin said.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.