A video of Martinez and Marichal was posted Tuesday on YouTube and later pulled. The Mets said Thursday in a statement that the video was shot two years ago.
Cockfighting is legal and popular in the Dominican Republic.
"I understand that people are upset, but that is part of our Dominican culture and is legal in the Dominican Republic," Martinez said in a statement Thursday. "I was invited by my idol, Juan Marichal, to attend the event as a spectator, not as a participant."
But Martinez and Marichal were characterized in an Associated Press story as participating in the cockfight as honorary "soltadores," the word used to describe the person who puts the animal to fight. The animal released by Martinez appears to be killed on the video, according to the AP report.
The fight took place in the Coliseo Gallistico de Santo Domingo (Santo Domingo Cockfighting
Coliseum), the Dominican Republic's biggest
"We do not condone any behavior that involves cruelty to animals," the Mets said in a statement Thursday. "We understand, however, that in many other countries, activities such as bullfighting and cockfighting are both legal and part of the culture."
On Thursday, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals sent letters to both
pitchers, calling on them to publicly apologize. The
Humane Society of the United States said "Major League Baseball
should join us in condemning Martinez and Marichal for their
PETA also sent a letter to baseball commissioner Bud Selig
urging all major league players and staff to take its animal
sensitivity training course -- the same one Michael Vick attended after
pleading guilty to federal dogfighting charges in August.
The Atlanta Falcons quarterback received a 23-month jail
sentence. The NFL suspended him indefinitely without pay.
In his letter to Selig, PETA assistant director Dan Shannon
mentioned the Vick case and wrote, "it seems that education on the
importance of treating animals humanely is in order for Major
Baseball spokesman Rich Levin said Selig had not yet seen the
"We don't condone any kind of animal cruelty, but we're not
going to comment on any individuals at this time," Levin said.
Except for baseball, cockfighting is widely considered the
Dominican Republic's most popular sport. Almost every small town
along the Caribbean nation's highways boasts a covered fighting
ring where trainers come to test their best roosters and rich and
poor alike fill the wooden stands to drink, wager and watch the
One of the best-known fighting rings is in Martinez's hometown
of Manoguayabo, made famous in 1991 as the opening setting for
Michelle Wucker's noted history of the Dominican Republic and
Haiti, "Why the Cocks Fight."
On fight days, well-heeled Dominicans and curious foreigners --
almost all of them men -- put on their best suits, polo shirts and
chacabanas for a card with as many as 30 fights. Between bouts,
bettors tour the fiberglass cages where prime roosters are examined
with the same keenness of eye as a regular in the paddock at
The fight begins when two roosters are lowered into the arena.
Men in blue or white coats more at home in a laboratory or butcher
shop prep the fighters, taunting them into a frenzy with a third
rooster. As the timed fight begins, the crowd erupts in a flurry of
one-on-one betting, flashing hand signals across the room to signal
fast-changing odds with the ironclad frenzy of a New York trade
Roosters are generally armed with a small bone or resin spur
meant to inflict maximum damage on their opponents, and the blood,
feathers and poultry stench that linger afterward are a testament
to their potency.
But the roosters do not always die. Matches are timed, 10-15
minutes in length, and many end in a draw with both chickens
bloodied and exhausted, but alive to fight another day.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.