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Antonen: John Rocker's Alleged Threat Against Sports Reporter Jeff Pearlman 'Another Distraction for the Braves'

Aired June 5, 2000 - 1:32 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Another top story today, the revival of the John Rocker controversy, which began last year, you recall, when the Atlanta Braves pitcher was quoted in a magazine article making derogatory comments about gays, minorities and immigrants. The controversy took on new life over the weekend. Rocker confronted "Sports Illustrated" reporter Jeff Pearlman, who wrote that article, and Rocker reportedly threatened to get even.

Joining us to sort things out, Mel Antonen, who has been a sportswriter for "USA Today" for the past eight years.

What do we make of this story, Mel, and why should we care?

MEL ANTONEN, "USA TODAY" SPORTSWRITER: Well, I think we should care. I'm sticking up for the media and the reporter on this one. Here's a reporter that just went out and did his job, did an excellent job reporting, and John Rocker is all over him.

You know, athletes, baseball players, have always confronted or challenged reporters for things they have written or said on the air, but the alleged threat, I think, crosses the line.

WATERS: The alleged threat is in "USA Today," and it was essentially as: "Do you know what I can do to you?" What do you make of that?

ANTONEN: Well, I don't know. I guess it's -- I wasn't there, I didn't see it. I've heard Bobby Mercer the Yankees' broadcaster's account, and now I've heard what John Rocker has to say. And I've read different news clips and talked to different people.

But it's sounds like John Rocker's very upset at the reporter from "Sports Illustrated," and I don't think he really should have any reason to be upset. He's never -- John Rocker's never accused the reporter of misquoting him in any way, shape or form, he's just angry at the reporter for printing something that he said.

WATERS: Well, Rocker apparently thinks that the reporter, Pearlman, had a choice. He could either go after him or not go after him, and he chose to go after him, says Rocker.

ANTONEN: Well, that's what Rocker -- yes, that's Rocker's opinion of the media. But I think when somebody makes those comments, I think they are news. I think they should be printed.

WATERS: All right.

ANTONEN: And I don't think Mr. Pearlman had any -- I mean, I don't think that he had anything to -- no ax to grind with John Rocker. I think that he reported just as he said.

WATERS: So what happens now? Major League Baseball took care of this last incident with Rocker. This is not good for the Braves. The Braves players, with the exception of Brian Jordan, don't want to even talk about. But they're going to have to talk about it, they're going to have to deal with it, aren't they?.

ANTONEN: Yes, it's going to be another distraction for the Braves. They thought that the spring training was a distraction, and it was a big distraction. And now the distractions are going to start all over again. There's going to be a whole new round of issues, there's going to be a whole new round of questions: Can John Rocker pitch for the Braves? Can he pitch effectively for the Braves? Do the Braves players want him on the team? All those things are going to be a distraction now in the Braves clubhouse.

And as Tom Glavin said yesterday, he's tired of it. He doesn't want to talk about it anymore, he doesn't want to analyze it. But it's there. And unfortunately for the Braves, John Rocker is their best bullpen pitcher.

WATERS: We just went through this with Bob Knight, the anger- management quotient in professional sports. Is this something that can be tolerated in some sports but not in others?

ANTONEN: I don't think so. I don't think anger, threats, alleged threats to anybody can be tolerated, whether its in sports or any other business. So I guess, and I'm assuming now, that baseball, Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig and the Atlanta Braves are going to investigate. They're going to get the facts and then they're going to make a decision on what should happen, if anything, to John Rocker.

WATERS: And we will follow along, won't we? Mel Antonen of "USA Today," thanks so much.

ANTONEN: Thank you, Lou.

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