Rocker's Lesson in Political Correctness

by John M. Curtis
(310) 204-8700

Copyright January 8, 2000
All Rights Reserved.

earning a painful lesson in political correctness, Atlanta Brave’s pitcher John Rocker, whose off-color remarks to Sports Illustrated 'shocked' the sports world and society at large, is about to pay a heavy price for shooting off his mouth. Many people are asking: What’s the big deal? Everyone knows that racial slurs and ethnic jokes are commonplace in an ethnically mixed American society. Even Hollywood mirrored this regrettable truth in popular sitcoms like Archie Bunker. Yet ethnic or racial slurs represent the most egregious, politically incorrect conduct, carrying draconian penalties. Sticks and stones. . . but gambling and sexual depravity, alcoholism and drug abuse, swindling and larceny, rape and torture, child abuse and molestation, all pale in comparison to making unforgivable racial remarks.

       Words can hurt and do matter. Why? "We hold these truth to be self-evident, that all men are created equal . . . ," said Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence. Violating sacred symbols—hypocritical or not—is an attack our most cherished documents and principles. Uttering racial slurs offends our most coveted values. While it’s barely tolerated in private, ugly public displays—especially by high-profile celebrities—aren’t taken lightly. When Johnnie Cochran uncovered evidence that Los Angeles police officer Mark Furman repeatedly used the 'N-Word,' his credibility—and that of the entire D.A’s case—went down the drain. Knowing this, how could any racially sensitive jury trust the mountain of evidence. If the O.J. trial crashed and burned because of race, it’s easy to see how careers can follow suit.

       Scratching his head, baseball commissioner Bud Selig ordered Rocker to undergo psychological testing before he metes out an appropriate punishment. That’s not a bad idea. After all, Rocker’s entitled to at least some due process. While some don’t care, it doesn’t hurt to try to understand Rocker’s problem. Dismissing him as a cocky 25 year old or dyed-in-the-wool bigot, doesn’t explain why someone holding the world by the tail trashes his life. Even Roberto Alomar eventually recovered from spitting in an umpire’s face. Dennis Rodman returned to basketball after kicking a photographer where it hurts. But we all remember the fate of baseball executive Al Campanis and sports analyst Jimmy the Greek after sharing their ignorant views on race: Early retirement. There was no forgiveness there—what’s going to be different this time around? Unlike Latrell Sprewell who choked his coach, Rocker violated the sacred rules of political correctness, and committed the unpardonable sin of venting racial bile.

       Offensive remarks like, referring to his black teammate as a "fat monkey" or noting that "I’m not a big fan of foreigners . . . How the hell did they get in this country?," or "Look! Look at this idiot . . . I guarantee you she’s a Japanese woman. How bad are Asian women at driving?," or, commenting about playing ball in New York and saying he didn’t want to sit on a subway, "next to some queer with AIDS," doesn’t prove anything about Rocker’s character other than he let his brains fall out of his head. Immature, sarcastic, testosterone plagued, and, yes, socially inept, post-adolescents sometimes say and do things they don’t mean. After the maelstrom of controversy, Rocker attempted his own damage control apologizing for his remarks. Even his father got into the act, releasing family photos showing Rocker interacting cordially with black friends.

       Summing it all up, "Mr. Rocker’s recent remarks made to a national magazine reporter were reprehensible and inexcusable," said commissioner Bud Selig in a press release. "I am profoundly concerned about the