October 22, 2019

Astros' Blatant Lies Expose Organization's Casual Misogyny; Asst. GM Taubman's Targets Included Reporter Who Tweeted Domestic Violence Hotline Numbers; Statements From Taubman And Owner-Chairman Jim Crane Are "A Bingo Card Of Worthless Cliches"

The Houston Astros' flimsy (and defamatory) claim that Stephanie Apstein, a writer for Sports Illustrated, published a "fraudulent" story about Assistant GM Brandon Taubman fell apart faster that the team's early 2-0 lead in World Series Game 1. (I cannot claim to be surprised by Taubman's appearance. Can you?)

Laura Wagner (Deadspin) writes:
Less than 24 hours after the Astros issued [an initial] statement ... the team has changed their tune to something resembling contrition. ... [T]he Astros are now offering a non-apologetic apology ...

After SI published its story, the Astros released a statement attacking the report and attempting to discredit the reporter. Though the statement didn't actually refute anything in Apstein's story, it called the report "misleading and completely irresponsible" and suggested that Taubman was merely trying to support Osuna in a "difficult time" during an interview.

Almost immediately, the Astros' weak attempt at a smear campaign began to fall apart. Various outlets, including the Houston Chronicle and the Athletic, corroborated SI's reporting. The Houston Chronicle added its own reporting, disputing the team's assertion that there were any interviews going on when Taubman yelled at the female reporters. The Chronicle wrote:
Taubman was holding a cigar and standing with two or three other men when he yelled his comments, two eyewitnesses said.

The three female reporters were approximately eight feet away and one was visibly shaken by the comment, the eyewitnesses said. There were no players in the area and no interviews were being conducted at the time. The Astros statement said "an Astros player was being asked questions about a difficult outing."
Despite the fact that multiple other journalists corroborated this story, the Astros' aggressive statement aimed at discrediting SI's reporting had the desired effect. Several news organizations framed their story on the topic around the Astros' denial, rather than around what Taubman did. CNN initially went with, "Houston Astros deny exec taunted female reporters following World Series berth."* ESPN's headline said, "Astros deny intent of assistant GM's support of Roberto Osuna." The Washington Post headline read, "Astros rip Sports Illustrated's story on executive's alleged "frightening" outburst at female reporters." ...

[T]he Astros released a second set of statements, from Taubman and owner Jim Crane, walking back their attempt to discredit Apstein and Sports Illustrated.

Taubman said:
This past Saturday, during our clubhouse celebration, I used inappropriate language for which I am deeply sorry and embarrassed. In retrospect, I realize that my comments were unprofessional and inappropriate. My overexuberance in support of a player has been misinterpreted as a demonstration of a regressive attitude about an important social issue. Those that know me know that I am a progressive and charitable member of the community, and a loving and committed husband and father. I hope that those who do not know me understand that the Sports Illustrated article does not reflect who I am or my values. I am sorry if anyone was offended by my actions.
Crane said:
The Astros continue to be committed to using our voice to create awareness and support on the issue of domestic violence. We not only ensure mandatory training annually for all of our employees. we have also created an important partnership with the Texas Council on Family Violence, and have raised over $300K through our initiatives to help various agencies providing important support for this cause. We fully support MLB and baseball's stance and values regarding domestic violence.
Neither statement mentioned the team's original assertion that Apstein had "fabricated" a story and the Astros have yet to offer an apology (either real or pseudo) to Apstein.

The Baseball Writers Association of America issued a statement:
The Baseball Writers Association of America is alarmed and dismayed by the actions of the Houston Astros and their public relations department in reaction to Sports Illustrated's report on Oct. 21, regarding post-game comments made by assistant GM Brandon Taubman directed at reporters.

The Astros' initial denial of the incident reported by SI was an unethical and intentional fabrication, designed to discredit our members and all journalists.

The BBWAA is encouraged by MLB's decision to investigate this matter and will fully cooperate. We expect that appropriate disciplinary measures will be handed out and made public.

Also, a public apology to the media outlets involved – particularly Stephanie Apstein, Sports Illustrated, and the BBWAA – should be forthcoming from the Astros, [Owner and Chairman] Jim Crane, [Senior Vice President, Marketing and Communications] Anita Sehgal, [Vice President, Media Relations] Gene Dias and Brandon Taubman.
MLB's statement implies, in Wagner's opinion, that the Commissioner's office "still doesn't believe the reporters' accounts of what happened". That would be at least seven reporters at this point - the three women who were targeted and the four reporters who confirmed that Apstein's account was completely accurate. As noted below, no one has publicly supported the Astros' version of events.

David Folkenflick (NPR) reports on an additional ugly aspect to this incident:
On Saturday night, not long after the victory, Astros Assistant General Manager Brandon Taubman targeted a small cluster of female reporters with a profane defense of reliever Roberto Osuna.

According to three eyewitnesses interviewed by NPR, Taubman appeared to be responding to the presence of a female reporter who was wearing a purple rubber bracelet to heighten awareness about domestic violence.

That reporter has tweeted repeatedly about the issue over the years. Taubman complained last year that some of the reporter's informational tweets — promoting domestic violence hotline telephone numbers, for example — appeared moments after Osuna entered several Astros games in relief. ...

"This was after most of that chaos has dissipated," says Stephanie Apstein, a baseball writer for Sports Illustrated who had been covering the Yankees pennant drive. ... "Most of the players were either with their families or on the field or getting dressed. So it was actually kind of unusual. You don't see that many front-office people in those celebrations."

In addition to the three eyewitnesses, NPR conducted four additional interviews to report this story. The Astros did not respond to NPR's requests for comment. ...

[Apstein:] "When these teams trade for players with reprehensible pasts, they say that they understand this is the start of a conversation ... But then when people ask them to talk about it, they act like they are the aggrieved parties in this situation." ...

"It's just arrogance. That is what the organizational philosophy with the Houston Astros is," ESPN baseball columnist Jeff Passan said on Outside the Lines. "The Astros always, when they are attacked, will attack back. And that's what this was, despite the fact that we're on Day 1 of the World Series."
Michael McCann, an attorney and the Director of the Sports and Entertainment Law Institute at the University of New Hampshire Franklin Pierce School of Law, also works as Sports Illustrated's Legal Analyst. He wrote:
Other journalists who were present in the Astros clubhouse confirmed Apstein's reporting. Tellingly, not one journalist offered a different account. Also, the Astros refused to comment to Apstein for her story. The team also would not make Taubman available for comment.

In other words, both the Astros and Taubman had opportunities to clarify Taubman's remarks before Apstein's story was published. They chose not to.

Instead, the Astros waited for the story to publish on Tuesday [and then] issued a statement that tried to discredit Apstein and Sports Illustrated. The statement, which noticeably was not attributed to any named person employed by the Astros, dismisses the story ... [claiming] Apstein "attempt[ed] to fabricate a story where one does not exist."

Given that witnesses had already corroborated Apstein's account, the Astros' attempt to blame Apstein and Sports Illustrated defied logic from the start. ...

Neither Taubman nor Crane apologized to Apstein, despite the fact that hours earlier the Astros had falsely claimed that she tried to invent a story. ...

Taubman's attempt to—sort of—apologize has triggered a new round of controversy. ... [It] suggests that Taubman believes his actions weren't so egregious that everyone would be offended, only that some people—for reasons that he doesn't suggest—might take offense. ...

Perhaps a "If anyone was offended" public relations strategy would have worked years ago. It doesn't now.
McCann goes on to explain, at length (which is much appreciated), how MLB might discipline Taubman and the Astros, under MLB's Regulations for Club/Media Relations and Workplace Code of Conduct, or the Commissioner's powers under MLB's Constitution.

McCann notes that Taubman's outburst "was clearly not a random event. According to the Houston Chronicle's Jenny Dial Creech, certain Astros employees have privately complained about the degree of media attention devoted to Osuna and his 2018 domestic violence incident."

Hemal Jhaveri, USA Today:
When confronted with an ugly situation in their clubhouse, the Houston Astros ... [became] a textbook case of what not to do. ...

Why [Taubman] chose to lash out in such an unsettling manner might be something for the Astros to look into, but they've clearly shown they have no interest in doing that. ...

The Astros first attempt to dismiss the situation came in the form of a Trumpian denial, trying to discredit the ... story while not technically denying what was said. ...

[T]he Astros basically held up a middle finger to not just the media but to facts, employing the kind of arrogant, frat boy attitude that has served them so well in the past.

The statement was met with wide-spread condemnation ...

On Tuesday, the Astros tried again to address the situation and failed again, this time even more spectacularly. ...

The two prepared statements are indeed a bingo card of worthless cliches that act like window dressing instead of anything that conveys real remorse. ...

[The Astros organization] clearly seems like a culture of casual misogyny. It's clear that the Astros don't understand what they did wrong every step of the way here, or that they actually care to learn.


jhutch said...

I don't think Taubman did anything wrong. Insert any other Astro name and this is a non-story, but Apstein has made it a point harass and publish stories about MLB players that have been suspended under MLB's domestic violence policy. Many of these players have NO CRIMINAL RECORD yet are portrayed as though they had. Taubman was just giving it back to the reporter that makes it a point they're women beaters at every opportunity.

allan said...

I was not going to let this comment through, but fuck it. Why not parade the preening asshole in front of everyone?

"Hey, MOST of these players who beat women have no record, so their actions must be OKAY!"

EXCELLENT point, sir!

And how DARE reporters, umm, report on what people in the business they are hired to cover do? How DARE those women do their jobs in a competent manner? How DARE those women do stuff that does not give men the cover to harass, assault, and beat the shit out of women whenever and wherever they want?

Do you realize, jhutch, that if Taubman had kept his uncontrollable douche-y yap shut (or maybe yelled his bullshit only once, instead of six times) there would have been no story - and he still would have a cushy, well-paying job? And if the Astros had done what ANY other intelligent group of adults outside of the White House would have done in response to the initial report they would not have cemented their reputation as an organization of entitled, bullying, uncaring assholes?

I guess not. But, FINALLY, someone has stood up and defended the long-maligned group of men (most of whom have NOT served jail time!) who beat and harass women. The shitheads of the world salute you, jhutch!!

Now go buy another MAGA cap and fuck the fucking hell off.

Paul Hickman said...

Nice reply Allan !

Fair to suggest he may be another of those "persecuted" middle aged white men with substantial grievances about the privilege they have "suffered" through ...... perhaps another case of a real brutally "tough" upbringing strikes again ?

Excuses, excuses, excuses is all we commonly hear from these types

Pathetic is just a word, for some of them it has become a Lifestyle !