Friday, August 02, 2002

Reds GM sorry for remarks

Bowden likens MLB strife to 9-11; then apologizes for insensitivity

By John Erardi and John Byczkowski
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Reds general manager Jim Bowden
(File photo)
| ZOOM |
        Reds general manager Jim Bowden apologized after opening himself to criticism - and a fine of up to $1 million from Major League Baseball - for saying that if the players' union goes on strike, “they ought to just pick Sept. 11th, because that's what it's going to do to the game.”

        Speaking to reporters in the Cinergy Field clubhouse before Thursday's game against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Mr. Bowden said he didn't think there would be a work stoppage because, “I don't think anybody's that dumb.”

        “If they (the players) do walk out ... I encourage all of them, "Make sure it's Sept. 11th. Be symbolic about it. Let (union head) Donald Fehr drive the plane right into the building, if that's what they want him to do,' ” Mr. Bowden said, referring to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States.

        General managers are subject to the gag order recently reimposed by baseball commissioner Bud Selig on club owners and employees concerning labor issues, said Richard Levin, a spokesman for Major League Baseball. The fine for violating that gag order can be as much as $1 million, Mr. Levin said.

        “The comments are insensitive and inappropriate,” said Mr. Levin, who talked to Reds publicist Rob Butcher to confirm that the statements had been made. “They are not condoned by Major League Baseball.”

        When asked if he would take any action, Mr. Levin initially said, “Obviously, we will look into it. It is a violation of the commissioner's policy.” After Mr. Bowden apologized, Mr. Levin said, “In evaluating this, we will take into consideration both the statement and the apology.”

        Mr. Levin said the commissioner is aware of both the statement and the apology, but no statements would be coming from Mr. Selig.

        Said players' union spokesman Greg Bouris of Mr. Bowden's comments, “I don't think we want to touch that.”

        A spokeswoman for Reds owner Carl Lindner said he would have no comment. Privately, however, Reds officials said they were disappointed in Mr. Bowden's choice of words.

        Mr. Butcher said the Reds front office would have no comment on Mr. Bowden's remarks other than releasing his apology.

        “Earlier today, while speaking to a group of reporters, I made a horrible comparison between baseball's labor situation and the tragedy of 9-11,” Mr. Bowden said in the apology. “I regret making such extremely insensitive remarks, and I apologize to everyone I may have offended. I am truly sorry. I made a mistake by using this analogy. I sincerely apologize for using that reference.”

        Mr. Bowden made his comments in response to questions about whether the threat of a strike had deterred teams from dealing before the July 31 trading deadline.

        Major League Baseball owners and players are trying to settle a labor dispute that involves such issues as revenue sharing, a luxury tax and drug testing. Mr. Bouris said no strike date has been set and that it has not been determined whether a strike date will be necessary.

        “We still hold out hope that a deal can be reached without a stoppage,” said Mr. Bouris.

        Aaron Boone, the Reds' union representative, had no comment on Mr. Bowden's remarks. Teammates Barry Larkin, Todd Walker, Scott Sullivan, Danny Graves and Gabe White also declined comment.


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