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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Baseball Coach’s Alleged Threats, Anti-Gay Slurs Dog Atlanta Braves

Roger McDowell
Roger McDowell
By Kilian Melloy -

The Atlanta Braves are doing well in the game--but off the field, the team is dogged by an alleged incident of homophobia and threatened violence that reportedly took place April 23 in San Francisco, where the Braves were playing the Giants.

Fresno resident Justin Quinn was at batting practice at AT&T Park with his wife, twin 9-year-old daughters, and other relatives, when Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell allegedly began to hurl homophobic abuse at several men in the stands.

An April 28 Associated Press report said that McDowell yelled at the men, "Are you guys a homo couple or a threesome?" McDowell then used a baseball bat to mime in a sexually suggestive manner.

When Quinn called out that there were children present, the response he reportedly got from McDowell was that "Kids don’t fucking belong at the baseball park." McDowell then allegedly approached Quinn, baseball bat still in hand, and asked the father, "How much are your teeth worth?"

At that point, Quinn told the media, his children became terrified that their father was about to be beaten.

"My kids are in panic mode ... they’re like grabbing onto me," Quinn told the AP. "I’m talking to him, trying to calm him down and the kids are screaming."

With fans booing and taking their children away from the scene, McDowell eventually left. Quinn reported the incident right away, first to a Giants staff member, and then to the San Francisco police.

He also engaged the services of attorney Gloria Allred, who sent a letter to Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig. The commissioner was quick to issue a statement, saying, "Although I do not yet have all the facts regarding this incident, the allegations are very troubling to me.

"The Atlanta Braves have assured my office that they will immediately investigate the allegations, and report the results of the investigation to me," Selig’s statement added. "After I have all the facts, I will make a determination of how to proceed."

Allred and Quinn had a press conference on the incident, calling for an apology from McDowell.

The coach did issue a statement subsequent to the press conference, in which he said, "I am deeply sorry that I responded to the heckling fans" and added, "I apologize to everyone for my actions." But McDowell did not mention Quinn or offer the family an apology.

Allred said that no one had contacted her client regarding the incident.

"If they’re doing an investigation, one would think they would want to talk to my client," Allred said, the AP reported in an April 29 follow-up story. "This may not be an isolated incident," Allred added. "I have been contacted by another fan in another state who alleges another incident."

The alleged second fracas, as described by Allred, bore striking similarities to the April 23 incident in that it "involved what the fan believed to be angry and inappropriate words directed at him and his wife who had her young children with her," Allred said. "This fan has authorized me to supply his information to the commissioner."

"The Atlanta Braves and Major League Baseball must take real disciplinary action and send the message that anti-gay slurs have no place in sports," the head of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, Jarrett Barrios, told the AP. "Professional sporting events should be an environment that all fans and families can enjoy, not a place where children are exposed to violent threats and discriminatory language."

TMZ reported that GLAAD had "reached out to the Braves in the hopes of partnering with the franchise to educate their employees about homophobic remarks."

Allred spoke with Fresno radio station KMJ-AM on April 28, telling listeners that McDowell’s verbal harassment of the three men was even more explicit than initial reports indicated. While miming a sexual act with that bat, Allred said, McDowell asked the man, "Are you three men giving it to each other [in the ass?]."

"We consider Coach McDowell’s behavior to be completely unacceptable and outrageous," Allred said, going on to say that she and her client were seeking an apology from McDowell "in person to the family."

"We think that ’Take Me Out to the Ball Game’ shouldn’t mean that fans and their families are forced to endure these kinds of homophobic slurs and sexually explicit behavior," Allred continued, adding, "It’s interesting to me that Coach McDowell did apologize yesterday, but he didn’t really say what his was apologizing for."

When asked whether her client wanted monetary damages, Allred replied, "He has not retained me for that purpose. What we want is change in Major League Baseball."

Allred cited another recent episode of violence in which Giants fan Bryan Stow, 42, was attacked by two men wearing Dodgers regalia outside of Dodger Stadium following the March 31 season opening game. Stow had been wearing a Giants jersey. He was so badly beaten that he had to be put into a medically induced coma. Two other Giants fans were also attacked.

"It’s bad enough when one fan beats up another fan, but now we have a representative of Major League Baseball , a coach, doing this to a fan, apparently threatening him with violence," Allred said. "This has to stop."

Allred went on to note that the incident set a poor example, since players look to their coaches to set "the standard that they should follow for conduct in the future, because he is a person in authority, he is the coach."

The radio host asked Allred whether McDowell might not have been trying to make a joke.

"There’s nothing funny about this," Allred responded.

Kilian Melloy reviews media, conducts interviews, and writes commentary for EDGEBoston, where he also serves as Assistant Arts Editor.

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