I’m still worked up about John Rocker.
Forgive me, all you folks who think this is a diversion from much more
important issues. For those who believe nothing that happens in sports,
entertainment or the culture could ever rival the urgency of politics,
indulge me for a few minutes.
For starters, all I can say is major league baseball better hope
Atlanta Braves relief pitcher John Rocker is not off his rocker.
Last Monday, baseball Commissioner Bud Selig announced that Rocker
will be suspended until May 1, fined $20,000, and ordered to attend “sensitivity
training.” Earlier, there were suggestions of psychological testing
No, Rocker did nothing illegal. He didn’t commit a crime. He didn’t
take drugs. He didn’t unlawfully discharge a firearm. He didn’t even cheat on
his taxes, that we know of.
What he did was give an interview to Sports Illustrated. It hurt some
people’s feelings. So, he’s being suspended from his livelihood, fined
and forced to enter some kind of re-education camp for a period of time. I
guess the next stop will be electroshock therapy.
But, before baseball subjects Rocker to psychological testing, it
better think twice. Because if baseball suspended a mentally ill player, the
owners and commissioner’s office are in violation of federal law.
That’s right. Remember the Americans With Disabilities Act? It
specifically forbids employers from punishing crazy workers. In fact, it goes even
further. If, indeed, baseball finds Rocker has been playing with one
french fry short of a Happy Meal, then “reasonable accommodations” must be made
to allow him to continue his livelihood unimpeded by foreigners,
homosexuals and others who set him off.
That’s the law, folks. I don’t make this stuff up. In fact, this is
not even an original idea. I credit Steve Dasbach, the Libertarian
Party national director, with first connecting these Rorschach dots.
It all started in December when Rocker was quoted in Sports
Illustrated criticizing homosexuals, foreigners who don’t speak English, people with
“purple hair,” Asian women drivers, toll booths, criminals and young
mothers with many children.
Although he apologized, Rocker was ordered to undergo psychological
testing. Even that wasn’t enough of an insult, an embarrassment and a
punishment, though, for major league baseball.
Now he is being deprived of his right to make a living and forced to
pay back to baseball his own hard-earned money.
Now, I know many of you are saying: “Farah, why do you care what
happens to this millionaire athlete? Don’t you think he and his union can take care
of this? Don’t we have more critical public policy issues to discuss?”
I’ve thought about that. And the answer is no. Because if a
millionaire celebrity like John Rocker can be victimized by this kind of political
correctness, believe me, none of us are safe. None of us.
But I think we’ve got baseball on this one — or, at least, maybe, a
way to illustrate the absurdity of federal laws that prohibit employers from
discharging people who are insane.
Any employer is free to fire a “bigot” who is sane. Yet, under the
Americans With Disabilities Act, it is illegal to discriminate against a
certifiably nutty bigot. So, if those psychological tests baseball
mandated determine Rocker is off his, this could be a federal case — “The People
As far back as March 1997, the Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission issued a ruling to protect “mentally ill or emotionally unstable”
employees from discrimination. The EEOC guidelines specifically cited as symptoms
of mental illness or emotional instability “consistently high levels of
hostility,” rude behavior, or chronically bad judgment.
And, after all, that’s all John Rocker is guilty of.
Is this nuts? You bet it is. I don’t know what’s crazier — the
reaction of major league baseball or the actions of our federal government.
But it gets worse.
Not only is it illegal to discriminate against crazy people, it’s
also illegal to require them to take tests to find out if they are mentally
ill, or to ask them if they are mentally ill — even if the employee is
visibly disturbed. So, Rocker’s best countermove, in my humble opinion, is to
find a friendly shrink. Because, if he can prove he’s nuts, Rocker can do
better than get his $20,000 back.
The fine for an ADA violation is up to $300,000.