Injured C Steve Clevenger was suspended without pay for the rest of the season by Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto Friday after racist tweets from his account were widely distributed Thursday.
“As soon as we became aware of the tweets posted by Steve yesterday we began to examine all of our options in regard to his standing on the team,” Dipoto said in a club release from Minneapolis. “Today we have informed him that he is suspended for the reminder of the season without pay.”
Clevenger mocked the fatal episode in Charlotte, N.C., in which police shot an African-American man, provoking three nights of civil disturbance.
When the tweets went viral, Clevenger took his account private and later issued an apology via Facebook:
“First and foremost I would like to apologize to the Seattle Mariners, my teammates, my family and the fans of our great game for the distraction my tweets on my personal twitter page caused when they went public earlier today. I am sickened by the idea that anyone would think of me in racist terms. My tweets were reactionary to the events I saw on the news and were worded beyond poorly at best and I can see how and why someone could read into my tweets far more deeply than how I actually feel.
“I grew up on the streets of Baltimore, a city I love to this very day. I grew up in a very culturally diverse area of America and I am very proud to come from there. I am also proud that my inner circle of friends has never been defined by race but by the content of their character. Any former teammate or anyone who has met me can attest to this and I pride myself on not being a judgemental person. I just ask that the public not judge me because of an ill worded tweet.
“I do believe that supporting our First Amendment rights and supporting local law enforcement are not mutually exclusive. With everything going on in the world I really just want what is best for everyone regardless of who they are. I like many Americans are frustrated by a lot of things in the world and I would like to be a part of the dialogue moving forward to make this a better world for everyone.
” I once again apologize to anyone who was offended today and I just ask you not judge me off of a social media posting. Thank you and God bless everyone.”
The apology did not address the targets of his tweets.
Clevenger, 30, has not been with the club since June 30, when he went on the disabled list with a hand broken after he was hit by a pitch. He played 22 games behind starter Chris Iannetta and hit .221 with a homer and seven RBIs. His return to play was further set back by a sore arm he developed during rehab and was not expected to return this season for health reasons.
For hometown Baltimore last season, Clevenger batted .287/.314/.426 with a pair of homers in 105 plate appearances. He is a six-year MLB vet who played with the Cubs (2011-13) and Orioles (2013-15) before coming to Seattle Dec. 2 in a trade for Mark Trumbo, who went on this season to lead the majors in home runs with 43.
MLB set a precedent for suspensions for racist comments in 2000 when John Rocker, the Atlanta Braves closer, was suspended for 73 days for remarks in an interview with Sports Illustrated.
On appeal, the suspension was cut in half.
”Major League Baseball takes seriously its role as an American institution and the important social responsibility that goes with it,” the Commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement. “We will not dodge our responsibility. Mr. Rocker should understand that his remarks offended practically every element of society and brought dishonor to himself, the Atlanta Braves and Major League Baseball.”