BY Art Thiel 07:49PM 07/25/2018

Thiel: Mariners’ boss has more explaining to do

President Kevin Mather owned up in a statement to sexually harassing women in the Mariners’ front office. That’s a start, not an end in the era of #MeToo.

Kevin Mather said in a statement he was “truly sorry.” / Alan Chitlik, Sportspress Northwest

Since no advanced metrics are available to measure independently the level of sincerity in club president Kevin Mather’s apology Wednesday for being a lout to some of the Mariners’ female employees, many of us are left to pass judgment on his contrition, and move on. The victims of his sexual harassment, of course, don’t get the option to move on.

They are stuck forever with his original words and deeds.

For that reason alone, it would have been good to read that he apologized directly to them, instead of generically to us, the public, who remain the target of his pursuit of forgiveness as well as the buyers of tickets and products.

Certainly, Mariners ownership forgave him, promoting Mather to president in 2014, then to CEO in 2017 despite the episodes in 2009-10 reported by Seattle Times Wednesday after interviews with more than three dozen people who worked within or around the club.

After publication of the front-page story, which included similar harassment allegations against Mather’s predecessor as president, Chuck Armstrong,  as well as former executive vice president Bob Aylward, Mather issued a statement on club letterhead owning up to being a jerk:

Almost ten years ago, I had to confront some unpleasant realities about myself. Throughout my career, I’ve tried to treat people with respect and professionalism. As I was coming up through the ranks, I thought I needed to be a hard-driving manager, but I came to realize that I sometimes came across as intimidating or even mean. I also participated in banter and was at times overly familiar, in ways that I came to realize were inappropriate in the workplace.

At the time, I didn’t recognize how my actions were affecting the people around me. I am truly sorry for the people I hurt and how I came across.

It was a humbling experience, and I’ve tried to learn from my mistakes. I take full responsibility for my actions, and I was grateful for the opportunity to change my behavior and the management training I received. I’ve worked to become a better co-worker, a better leader, and a better person.

He did not dispute the claims, which resulted in settlements of more than $500,000 to two victims, an anonymous source told the Times. Mariners managing partner John Stanton also said in a statement that the club “made amends” to the two women after investigating the claims hiring.

The Times cited a written statement from Mariners legal counsel Fred Rivera that said after some past misconduct violations, the team on rare occasions has “made financial compensation to employees and exacted financial compensation from employees to remedy these violations,” suggesting but not declaring Mather may have had to pay from his pocket.

The statements from Mather and Stanton defended the club’s subsequent corrections and new policies, saying provision of a safe and welcoming environment for all employees was a priority, and committed “to continuous improvement in every aspect of our culture to ensure fairness, dignity and respect for all.”

That’s all well and good. But the misbehavior of three senior executives that generated the complaints suggests that male privilege had been well-baked into the club culture. The promotion of Mather is the kind of reward that has fueled the rage of the #MeToo movement nationally.

Pro sports, particularly the front offices of many teams, is a bastion of white maleness. The NFL was rocked in December by accusations of abuse from female employees against one of its most venerable owners, Jerry Richardson of the Carolina Panthers.  The claims were sufficient to force him out, but the “punishment” included a $2.2 billion price he received when he sold the club in May.

Louise Fitzgerald, emeritus professor of gender and women’s studies at the University of Illinois and an expert on sexual harassment, told Time magazine in December that the big-time sports culture is particularly vulnerable.

“The more men relative to female employees, the more harassment there tends to be,” she said. “Sports is one of the most masculinized industries in the country.”

Since settlements were paid and no charges were filed on episodes in the Mariners front office nearly a decade ago, there is no trial for the executives except in the court of public opinion.

Bad timing for that.

The outing in the Times has put management on the public defensive at a time when the ballclub has a decent chance to make the playoffs seemingly for the first time since Ice Age glaciers gouged out Puget Sound. The franchise is also are looking at a potentially ugly political fight over a plan to obtain $180 million in hotel-motel taxes in King County to maintain and upgrade Safeco Field’s retractable roof.

The owners think the stadium lease makes the public liable for the funding. But some King County politicians think otherwise, believing the homeless crisis might be a better use of tax money.

The county council has booked the first public hearing on the matter Monday. Mather seemingly would be the one to represent the club’s position.  The guess here is that in liberal Seattle,  a written statement of  “truly sorry” about his contribution to the national wound of workplace sexual harassment isn’t going to cut it.

Give him credit for not denying his deeds in a statement. But his victims and their sisterhood would be better served by a personal, public accounting, particularly when he’s asking for public funding. The door is no longer closed to the backroom boys club.


YourThoughts

  • ll9956

    Well put, Art. Thanks.

    • art thiel

      I’m sure the M’s appreciate it too.

      • Mark Stratton

        Given their dedication to transparency I’m sure you’re right

  • bugzapper

    Chuck Armstrong. Oh, I’m shocked.

    • art thiel

      He speaks well of you.

      • bugzapper

        Give me five minutes alone with him and a 2×4 and I’ll make that stop.

        • art thiel

          Now, now. Violence shall not begat violence.

  • Theyfinallyfiredcable

    Talk about the wheels coming off the wagon at THE most inopportune time ! Usually by June the Mariners have already drove into the ditch and it’s time to fire up the bobblehead giveaways . This year gave the fans their first hope of sniffing the playoffs since – as you put it Art – “Ice Age glaciers gouged out Puget Sound” . Then Cano gets suspended half a year , Felix and Paxton get hurt , Segura gets screwed out of an All-Star MVP , they suddenly want $180 million from the taxpayers , and now this …

    .. at some point in the distant past , a Mariners employee must’ve pissed off a wandering gypsy who then touched him and murmured “thinner” . Did we unknowingly trade Babe Ruth back in the 70’s and are still suffering ‘the curse’ ?! What in God’s name is going on with this ballclub ?!

    Two games in front of Oakland for the last wild card with August in the windshield . If they blow this , I would expect to see a lot less butts in seats next year . Even Seattle fans can only take so much ..

    • art thiel

      Feel free to look around baseball for many similar stories, although the harassment saga is a fresh sort of local despair.

      Remember, they’re still ahead of the A’s, who lifted many boulders to get where they are.

      • bugzapper

        Not any more.

    • Husky73

      The curse of Lincecum. The M’s passed on drafting hometown boy Tim Lincecum….3 World Series, 4 All Stars, 2 Cy Youngs. I have proposed signing him to a minor league contract for the past 3 years, simply to end the curse.

      • 2nd place is 1st loser

        Jason Varitek, Adam Jones etc. etc. To name a few who they p!$$ed away. To many curses to mention.

      • art thiel

        They did take Brandon Morrow . . . never mind.

      • bugzapper

        You forgot trading Randy Johnson because he had a “bad back.” Five Cy Youngs, 10 All-Star games, 303 wins, 4,875 SO, First Ballot Hall of Fame.

        • Ed Norton

          Glad you remember this. Plus, the Mariners “management” in place felt that the best time to announce that they would not resign Randy was right when Griffey was named AL MVP. So they not only made a stupid move in not offering Randy a contract, they chose to drop their bomb right when Griffey should have had sole possession of the limelight.

          • bugzapper

            And I’m glad you remember that! And I will never forget the look on Griffey’s face when Armstrong made the announcement. Junior was still gleefully holding the MVP trophy he’d worked his ass off to get for years, and Armstrong pissed on it. He also pissed on Junior and on every Mariners fan. I fucking hate Armstrong to this day. Considering how much I despised Woodward, Ellis, Lincoln and the rest of those duplicitous, cheap bastards, that’s saying something.

          • art thiel

            You need to come out of your shell.

          • Ed Norton

            Your summary of those regrettable events many years ago is certainly succinct. As we have recently read about Armstrong and him forcing his unwanted attentions on women employees, there is plenty to dislike about the guy.

  • woofer

    Your basic board room whitewash with obligatory generic apology. But, hey, Mather got some “management training” so that surely must make things OK.

    This insultingly feeble effort wouldn’t get it done in most venues. But here in forlorn backwater Seattle we are so very grateful to have a once-in-a-lifetime shot at the second American League wild card slot that we dare not rock the boat too much.

    So how about something like this: a special fan appreciation night where all single women under 40 get in free and receive a Kevin Mather bobblehead doll with his private parts tastefully adorned by a fig leaf. That should make everyone in the cozy fan-friendly Mariners family happy.

    • art thiel

      You have me smiling. Well done.

    • Ken S.

      Most excellent!

  • 2nd place is 1st loser

    What would uncle Howard do? This group of knuckleheads are the same knuckleheads that steered the good ship Mariner off the cliff for years. I have zero faith in this group to make the M’s a perennial winner. Same as it ever was, same as it ever was.

    • art thiel

      Besides the consequences to victims, the episode allows fans like you to assume the worst — again — about franchise stewardship. I think things have changed, but this episode, and Mather’s promotions, flies in the face of that.

  • Mark Stratton

    Until Mather and the rest of the Mariners execs apologize publicly to those they ‘made uncomfortable’, we can’t believe they actually got the message.

    I don’t think the Mariners need any more public money, though leaving it with the feckless fools running our city and county is not a comforting thought either. It seems the more money they throw at a problem the worse it gets.

  • Parts

    So let me see if I understand this correctly…..they bought root sports so they could pay themselves for the right to broadcast their games, which was supposed to help them move up the ‘ol “yearly revenue generated” standings, but they need to go to the county for money to maintain the stadium. Helluva racket that pro sports franchise ownership…

  • danbranley

    I noticed that The Seattle Times chose to not allow reader comments at the end of their coverage of this story. Any thoughts on why?

    • art thiel

      My guess is they presumed the comments would degenerate into mockery of the perps, the victims and the Times for sitting on the story so long.

  • Ken S.

    I hope that half a mil came out of his own pocket. There is no better way to stop unwanted behavior than to hit someone in their own pocket.IMO he got off easy. Most of these workplace perps get the ax. Why is he still gainfully employed by the Mariners?

    • art thiel

      Stanton and the board didn’t think the offenses were worthy of termination.