By Michael Thompson
WASHINGTON – Though it’s been nine years since he threw his last pitch in Major League Baseball, former Atlanta Braves reliever John Rocker is still known for a single incident that happened back in 1999.
Rocker isn’t known for a memorable pitch in Game 7 of the World Series; or for a blown save that cost the home team a shot at the pennant. Rocker’s life was radically altered after an interview with notorious sports journalist Jeff Pearlman from Sports Illustrated.
The politically incorrect statements Rocker said in the interview resulted in a media firestorm. Rocker was suspended by Commissioner Bud Selig, given the highest fine ever in Major League Baseball history, and assigned to mandatory “sensitivity” training.
The worst aspect of this public hanging by the respectable media was his tarnished reputation. Rocker referred to the entire affair as equivalent to “dying” in his new book “Rocker: Scars and Strikes.”
Rocker was the first victim of many shots in the politically correct war waged against patriotic Americans.
In an exclusive interview with WND, Rocker opened up about life after baseball, the current state of the game, as well as his second passion: politics. In true Rocker fashion, he lets loose with candid straight forward commentary on immigration reform, the national debt crisis, the Trayvon Martin affair. Rocker also took the current administration headon with a disturbing account of the country’s general direction under Barack Obama, and the desperate need for regime change in the coming election.
Rocker retired from baseball in 2005 and has moved on to a successful career in real estate in the Atlanta metro area. When WND caught up with Rocker he was heading down to Destin, Fla., to deal with a problem at a 254-unit apartment complex he developed and owns. While stuck in traffic, Rocker illustrated he was still the quick-witted and opinionated individual Pearlman goaded into saying controversial things in the 1999 interview with Sports Illustrated.
In “Rocker: Scars and Strikes,” referring to that famous/infamous interview he writes, “I died on a Sunday evening. Now of course I didn’t die in the literal sense that day, but I might as well have. Technically, I’m still breathing and the soulless shell that is my body continues to walk around upright appearing to be intact. Make no mistake about it, however, everything inside of me that day, everything I worked a lifetime to become, who I was at the core of my being, which took more than a decade to create, was laid to waste in one fell blow all for the sake of selling a few @#%&ing magazines.”
It was in this interview with Pearlman that the native of Macon, Ga., had his public reputation shaped. Rocker uses “Scars and Strikes” as a platform for addressing the character assassination that occurred in the pages of Sports Illustrated last century.
Pearlman wrote in Sports Illustrated, “John Rocker has opinions, and there’s no way to sugarcoat them. They are politically incorrect, to say the least, and he likes to express them.”
On ever playing for a New York team: “I would retire first. It’s the most hectic, nerve-racking city. Imagine having to take the [Number] 7 train to the ballpark, looking like you’re [riding through] Beirut next to some kid with purple hair next to some queer with AIDS right next to some dude who just got out of jail for the fourth time right next to some 20-year-old mom with four kids. It’s depressing.”
Rocker’s teammates and friends in Major League Baseball rushed to defend him from the media firestorm that ensued from the portrait created in Pearlman’s interview. Unfortunately, the damage was done.
Rocker commented, “I said some things about New York City which in the context they were presented led many people to automatically interpret as racist, xenophobic, or bigoted. And to this day, that’s what I’m most remembered for. Not what I accomplished on the field, but what I said in an interview with Sports Illustrated.
“Pearlman spent nearly 10 hours with me that day and we engaged in numerous very long-winded conversations on everything from how to throw a breaking ball to the effects of a flawed U.S. immigration policy. Strategically extracting a sentence fragment here and separate thought there Pearlman painted the exact picture of me he intended from the very beginning and in doing so remained true to form and consistent with his long and decorated history of trash journalism. In my research I have found that Pearlman has done eerily similar hatchet jobs to dozens of other subjects during his 20 year career,” said Rocker.
“Immediately after the comments were printed the media began in earnest to uncover other ‘smoking guns’ of racial intolerance and bigotry from my past. Oh what a glorious story that would have made! To have an ex-black teammate or a person from my high school years come forward and support the image that Pearlman had created would have be gold! For months everyone from the New York Times to Current Affair interviewed high school teachers, high school friends, ex-teammates, and current ones only to have Pearlman’s image refuted at every opportunity. So without any gasoline to pour on their fire storm the media finally gave up and left their contradictory findings largely unreported.”
To say John Rocker is fed up with political correctness and the culture police that enforce their speech code standards would be a gross understatement. As Rocker made clear to WND, he’s still waiting for the day when a public figures makes a politically incorrect remark and refuses to cower to the mainstream media. He would love to see someone stand in support of his or her opinion and say: “You know what? I’m not sorry. I don’t care if you’re offended. I have just as much of a right in this country to speak my mind without fear of abuse as you do to be offended.”
When, he wonders, will the concern for the offended stop outweighing the concern for those exercising their rights as Americans? Why are the “offended” always right?
The media weren’t able to find sufficient evidence to castigate Rocker as the “southern bubba” they so desperately wanted to create. Nevertheless, even years later, the media still refuse to see Rocker in any other light and he is still identified solely by Pearlman’s interview.
It was what Rocker sees as this unwavering misperception created by the media that finally gave birth to his book.
Thus, he writes in “Scars and Strikes”: “I guess the lesson I’ve learned over the last decade when it comes to media and their ability to manipulate the public’s perception is in line with the old cliché which states, ‘Don’t ever pick a fight with a guy who buys ink by the truck load.’ Well, I finally decided to buy my own truck.”
Rocker admits that some may still find offense with his thoughts and opinions, but feels he has as much of a right to voice his opinion as others have to do be offended by it. And, if it so happens that one finds offense with Rocker’s thoughts and commentaries in “Scars and Strikes,” it doesn’t appear that any contrite apologies will be forthcoming.
“I think people in America on both sides of the political spectrum are growing weary of political correctness,” he says. “I think people are tired of wearing the ‘speech muzzle’ all the time never knowing what comment may offend what person or group. It’s exhausting. Instead of everyone bending over backwards attempting to accept everything about everyone we all just need to accept one clear simple fact. We are all not always going to accept every difference that people have one from another. That is the only thing which should be universally accepted and understood.”
Rocker does have his opinions, and there is no easy way to sugarcoat them. To some, they are politically incorrect. To others, they are simply common sense. Regardless, he likes to express them.
Rocker still wants immigrants – legal immigrants – to succeed in America, but he wants them to speak English in the process: “I don’t care if you speak two, five or even 10 languages; if you plan on living, raising a family and prospering in this country one of those languages should be English. There is no white collar job one can have in America where knowing the English language will not be required. I can’t speak for everyone, but I doubt the ideal scenario for the young immigrant involves digging ditches or changing dirty hotel sheets for the next 50 years. America has much more to offer than that.”
Rocker goes on to state, “As typical with most media, a general effort has been made by many journalists to frame my ‘Speak English Campaign’ in the vein of racism. And why wouldn’t they? Stirring the propaganda pot is what most of them do best instead of taking an opportunity to engage in authentic debate for purposes of gaining an understanding. Most media have chosen to apply a simplistic definition that creates the greatest level of sensationalism. This campaign is about much more than simply speaking English. In one part it is an effort to encourage Americans to support one of the most basic aspects of our unique heritage which is the language we speak. In a second part, but equally as important, it seeks to encourage the new American immigrant who wishes to take advantage of all that this great country has to offer to assimilate to the culture and heritage of the new land they find themselves at the most elementary level, the language they speak.”
He’s also got plenty to say about the current administration and the 2012 election: “Like hopefully a majority of Americans out there, I’ll be voting against President Obama this year. I won’t necessarily be voting for the Republican candidate as much as I will be voting against Obama. America has been the greatest nation this earth has ever known over the last 150 plus years. In my strong opinion Barack Obama does not hold a single core value or belief consistent with the principles that created this amazing country we call the United States of America. His belief system could not be more foreign from those of the ‘Greatest Generation,’ from the beliefs of a Truman, Roosevelt, Eisenhower, or Reagan. This country cannot sustain four more years of his cancerous ideology. I have always been a big fan of Newt Gingrich. He is one of the most brilliant people I have ever listened to. Unfortunately things didn’t work out for him, but such is our democratic process and a large reason America is the great nation it is. It seems that Governor Romney will be getting my vote, although be it somewhat by default. I would vote for the devil himself over Barack Obama which would actually be tough though as he seems to already be a supporter.”
He continues in an interview with WND: “This country cannot take four more years of Obama’s class warfare, internal strife-inciting rhetoric and politics. In every country there will always be a much larger lower and middle class than upper class. That’s common sense. Since the inauguration of Obama those in that normal majority have negatively cast themselves as the 99 percent, as if in some way they feel they are victims of something and thus have adopted an Obama-derived mindset that seems to discourage the improvement of oneself while demonizing those that have fulfilled the American dream and grasped success. Following the harmony of Obama, as if he’s the pied piper, the 99 percent have turned their focus on the destruction of the 1 percent instead of pursing their own accomplishment. It’s class warfare at the most basic level. Those are not the values and principles that made this country great, yet this is what Obama and his administration largely creates and supports.”
Here’s Rocker speaking his mind on some other issues:
- On diversity and the erosion of freedoms in America: “To turn an age-old cliché on its ear, I think the phrase commonly used to describe the good ol’ US of A should be slightly altered. As most of us are familiar, the United States is commonly referred to as the ‘Land of the free and home of the brave.’ Based on the erosion of many of our most basic freedoms over the past decade I feel we need to more accurately describe ourselves as the ‘Land of the somewhat free and mostly brave.’ In ‘Scars and Strikes,’ I devote an entire chapter to the freedoms and dignities once taken for granted, which are being severely altered and threatened. Many of these freedoms, which in large part set the United States in stark contrast from the overwhelming majority of countries on the planet, have been and are being compromised on an ongoing basis. For example, it is now possible for the FBI as well as other law enforcement to search a person’s home without permission or even the owner’s knowledge. It’s also legal to tap into a citizen’s email, and phone, along with other personal internet based information without court order. Part of me says, ‘If you’re not doing anything wrong, then no harm no foul.’ But another part is also for due process and staying away from the slippery slope that may lead to a glorified Soviet Union-style Gestapo in our near future. That’s how rights and freedoms eventually evaporate. A frog will not jump into a pot of boiling water, but if the heat is slowly turned up; he’ll finally boil to death. I think we’re starting to get to a nice simmer in this country.”
- How Rocker would fix the U.S. if he were in charge: “WOW, what an overwhelming question! Maybe summon the ghost of Ronald Reagan for some advice. … It’s a gross understatement to say that our country has some major malfunctions going on. Congress is about as functional as a one-winged bird. The most powerful man in the world was a community organizer in his last job and probably admits to Michelle on a regular basis behind several very tightly closed doors that he knows he’s in way over his head. Ninety-nine percent of the country hates the other 1 percent. A congressional budget hasn’t been passed in more than three years while our national debt is running unabatedly out of control. We haven’t seen unemployment sustained at 8+ percent for this length of time since the Great Depression. Wages are down, gas prices are up. We’re fighting an unwinnable war in a God-forsaken part of the world against an entire ideology, not simply against men. Kill as many members of al-Qaida, Hezbollah, the Muslim Brotherhood or any other terror-sponsoring organization you want and there will always be five more willing and waiting to take the place of their fallen brothers in psychosis. Those men are happy to die, but the ideology that brainwashes them will be much more difficult, dare say, impossible to kill. So with that being just the tip of the ugly iceberg, where is the exact place one should begin in repairing the mountain of a mess we find ourselves? I think at the risk of sounding simplistically optimistic and moderately naïve; I would place as much focus as humanly possible on becoming energy independent. Tell the ‘Greenpeacers’ to go find a new cause for their out-of-touch hearts to bleed about and put as many resources and as much effort as this country can collectively muster into becoming energy independent through coal, oil and natural gas exploration. I would envision something in the vein of FDR and his New Deal. The exploration for these resources along with their extraction would create tens of thousands of skilled, high-paying jobs, thereby lowering unemployment, while simultaneously creating a multitude of avenues for the influx of tax revenues, which would have the ability to cut into our annual fiscal deficit to some degree. In addition, based on current research, the United States has oil reserves in places like ANWR and [North] Dakota just to name two that rival, and, by some accounts, exceed that of the Middle East, while also possessing more natural gas reserves than anywhere else on earth. The extraction of these resources could give America its independence from foreign energy for the next 100-plus years, which would undoubtedly be a massive game-changer on a number of fronts, most specifically, foreign policy, in addition to the obvious fiscal impacts. I feel the process and reality of becoming energy independent would have the broadest ranging most dynamic impact of any other fiscal or political policy adjustment possible.”
- What about Arizona law SB1070: “God bless Jan Brewer! If I could personally meet any public figure in our country today on any level, Jan Brewer would be at the top of that list. That woman was elected by the people of Arizona to do one thing and one thing only, whatever is best for the citizens of her state as their representative. Jan Brewer is not a racist. Her House and Senate that passed SB1070 are not racists, and to flippantly assume that the hard-working men and women of Arizona law enforcement would behave like bigots in the enforcement of this bill is paramount to a slap in their face. I’m quite sure that many of them would take strong exception to such an allegation. Life in our country’s border states can be much different than in the rest of the country. Illegal immigration has become rampant during the last decade and a half. Without getting into the multitude of negative affects illegals have on the economies of these border states, let’s simply focus on their effects to public safety. In addition to the sustained and growing violence of the Mexican drug cartels in 2004, 37,000 illegal immigrants were detained in the Tucson, Ariz., sector alone. Of those 37,000, 7,500 of them were from terror-sponsoring countries. No discussion is needed regarding the sentiments an entire region of the globe has for the good ol’ US of A. Don’t forget that, just a few months ago, terror plots were uncovered designed to carry out bombings on the Israeli and Saudi embassies in Washington, D.C., while a little over two years ago a man with a bomb in his underwear was carried off a plane in Detroit on Christmas Day. Before the World Trade Center attacks of 2001, the buildings had already been hit in 1993. People, very evil people, want to do great harm to the innocent citizens of our country and I have a very strong belief that these people work toward it in some capacity on a daily basis. An attack against the men, women and children of this country will happen again. It’s not a matter of if but when. If Manuel, Jose or Prakesh have to show proof they are here legally and, heaven forbid, feel such a heinous dreadful thing as ‘racial profiling’ has befallen them then so be it. I’ll take a complaint of racial profiling and five minutes of inconvenience over a rising death toll any day. Thank God for Jan Brewer, Nathan Deal and all of the other brave politicians who are trying to keep my civilian a– from becoming a statistic. Here’s a quick story: When I lived in Venezuela playing winter ball in 2005, I was most definitely profiled when my car with three other gringos in it was asked to pull off the side of the road at a random military checkpoint. I had to get out of my car and show a man carrying an AK-47 wearing military fatigues my passport, driver’s license and car registration. But guess what? I had my passport and so did the other three people with me. That’s just what you do when you’re in a foreign country. I had my car registration and I had my driver’s license. After about three minutes of inconvenience I was free to go. Had I been profiled? You’re damn right! Had the Venezuelan federales pulled the one car from the line of traffic with four people in it that didn’t look like they were from Venezuela? Right again! As one of their jobs in conducting such a random traffic check point is to possibly apprehend people who shouldn’t be in Venezuela. Were the federales right in singling me and my friends out? Absolutely! I produced what they were asking for – no harm no foul. Did I want to sue the Venezuelan government for unfairly profiling me? Don’t be ridiculous! In the world we live in policies like SB1070 are just common sense. I just pray the Supreme Court will find favor with it.”
- On Trayvon Martin: “To say that after all of the glorious efforts that have been made over many, many years that America still has a tremendous amount of racial tension would be a gross understatement. Evidently we have been making the wrong efforts in the wrong directions. In many places, you can almost feel the tension simmering slightly below the surface. It’s saddening and almost frustrating to see the polarizing effects a situation like that with Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman can have on this country. When and how will we ever unite across all ethnic and racial barriers? After following this story over the past month it sickens me to witness the exploitation, propaganda and opportunistic advantage that many people have shamelessly taken on the back of this situation. Trayvon Martin was a life. He was a bright-eyed young man with his whole future ahead of him. In my opinion and I’m certainly not afraid to voice it; Trayvon Martin is being treated like a pawn for the promotion of a social agenda – at least for right now. Next year there will be a new face, but for now this special young man’s life is being exploited for the furtherance of some ‘victimology’ and oppression campaign. Those exploiting him don’t care about his life. To them he is not a life; he is simply a name and a face to be placed on a poster at a rally for the cause. They don’t care that Trayvon Martin will never get to grow old nor watch his children do the same. They don’t care that he won’t be at prom this year or on spring break with his buddies. They don’t care that he’ll never meet his wife or his son. All they care about is a dark face to put with a tragedy that will give them their soapbox to stand on while they look into a TV camera and further divide this country with sensationalized rhetoric. And when I say ‘they,’ everyone knows who ‘they’ is. ‘They’ are the ones who called for heads when six kids at Duke University were accused of rape by a drugged-out black stripper. ‘They’ tried that case in the court of public opinion and feverishly stoked the flames of racial tension with their misguided, flippant accusations. How did that situation turn out, by the way? ‘They’ did the same thing a few years earlier with Tawana Brawley and have stood on that soapbox many, many times in between promoting their agenda and dividing America, all the while exploiting the victim no matter what he or she has faced or how real or false their claims may be. ‘They’ don’t care about Trayvon Martin and the loss of his one chance at life. If life was their deepest concern then there would be similar reaction regarding the over 7,000 black on black murders that occurred last year. Were those lost lives somehow less important than that of Trayvon Martin? Did their futures or lack thereof not matter? Or were they just not the right kind of victims. They were victims of murder just not the right kind of murder. Their assailants had too much pigment in their skin. Too much pigment in a murderer’s skin means ‘They’ have nothing to exploit, no opportunity to promote the agenda of victim ology, no soap box to stand on, no TV camera to look into and incite one American against another. So to answer my own question; their lives were seemingly not as important as Trayvon Martin’s. A life is a life, is a life, and there is no one life that’s any more important than another. As long as situations like that between Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman are played out in the court of public opinion in the hateful way they so consistently are the vast racial divide will sadly always exist in this country. Black against white; American against American. ‘They’ only care about the right kind of agenda promoting life. Have ‘they’ ever showed up in outrage over a black on white crime? Were ‘they’ out in force following the approximately dozen incidents where black assailants admittedly assaulted white victims in retaliation for Trayvon Martin? Where were ‘they’? Is that not bigotry and hatred at its most basic level? Is the suffering of a white rape, assault or murder victim less severe than a black counterpart? Do the crimes committed against those white victims by their black assailants not matter? It has never appeared to matter. For those of you who either aren’t aware or prepared to admit racism, bigotry and hatred live on a two-way street. As ‘they’ protest and call all to arms through rallies, soapboxes and media diatribes, ‘they’ will always claim it’s for the abolition of the cancerous sentiments we find in our society. Are these sentiments not directed at and felt by non-black members of America as well? Of course they are. If you dig deep enough one will discover it’s quite common. You will never see a protest, a rally or a diatribe on your evening news for these victims, however. ‘They’ will only stand up for a certain type of victim defined purely and simply by the amount of pigment in his or her skin. The pure presence of racism and bigotry is not enough. It must be the right kind of bigotry. Will ‘they’ ever show up to cry outrage for a pale-faced victim as ‘they’ did for Tawana Brawley, or Crystal Gail Mangum and now Travyvon Martin? I have witnessed enough to have formed some concrete reservations as to such a circumstance ever existing. Unfortunately, it is my firm and dejected opinion that until ‘they’ are willing to speak out against the racially biased treatment of the white American, the Asian American, the Jewish American, etc., to an equal degree, that we as Americans will always simply co-mingle and never truly coexist.”
Rocker is passionate about defending America and ensuring that it remains a nation dedicated to limited government principles. Rocker wants a country in which hard-working people can succeed and keep the wealth they generate, instead of providing the means for those who don’t care about America to prosper.
Pearlman’s interview with Rocker ended with a scene from the visitor’s locker room at Shea stadium after Game 4 of the National League Championship Series. Rocker was allegedly rampaging around the locker room fuming about the result.
Pearlman asked Mike Remlinger, a veteran reliever for the Braves if Rocker had gone too far.
According to Pearlman, Remlinger commented, “baseball is a game of humility. You can be on top one minute, as low as possible the next. When you’re young, you don’t realize it. But sooner or later you learn – we all do. Be humble.”
For Pearlman, this must have been his voila moment, where the wily vet explains away the passion of the young buck letting his youthful ignorance get the better of him.
But Rocker doesn’t beg for forgiveness. He’s not sorry and he’s not going to pretend to be.