slander hinders discussion of steroids in pro sports

14 05 2007

In baseball news, David Ortiz (a.k.a. Big Papi) of the Boston Red Sox was recently defending Barry Bonds, saying he deserves respect and that it is possible for players to unknowingly take steroids if they aren’t careful.  He specifically notes that he is very cautious with where he gets his protein shakes and nutritional supplements, for that very reason.  Yet the Boston Herald didn’t hesitate to slander him for his statements, with a headline of “Papi Unwitting ‘Roid User?”  Of course this angered Ortiz quite a bit, and he has responded with :

I’m angry, bro.  I’m going to be angry for a while. … I just want to know, what have I ever done for people to question my integrity?  Why do people who have never met me want to [expletive] me up?  Why would you want to hurt someone who has tried to do the right thing, be available to the media, to be respectful to the fans? … I’m just really disappointed.  People want to see you fail.  That’s not what I’ve ever wanted to believe, but that’s what I’ve seen around here.  Why do people want to make me look that way when they know I’ve done nothing but try to lift up this ball club from Day 1?  I’ve tried to put a positive spin on everything, on everybody.  And this is what I get for that.  For now, I’m going to be very limited in my responses.  Whenever anyone had a question before, about me, about my teammates, about the game, I tried to help.  When they had a question, I always had an answer.  Now I won’t. ~ David Ortiz

This is bad, on multiple levels.  Not only does this type of reporting slander his character, but it makes him less “open” to questions by reporters.  I like hearing players who aren’t afraid to give their opinion, but he has a legitimate reason now for saying less.  That kind of speculation cannot be taken back by a small correction in the newspaper the next day.  Gossip cannot be undone.  The rumors swirl around the Internet, and the message will get more twisted — some on purpose, some unintentionally.  Shortly after the article was printed, a reporter from another city went into the office of Ortiz’s manager and declared that Ortiz had exposed himself as a steroid user.  The damage has been done.

I can certainly understand why Big Papi is angry.  His reputation is damaged, not just with other professionals, but with children.  He gives back to the community, and he has tried to be a good role model for children.  It’s not fair that someone’s unfounded accusations (which were undoubtedly made to generate controversy) have caused so much harm.

Also, this type of “punishment” for speaking openly really hinders the discussion of steroids in professional sports.  It is an issue that needs to be discussed, for players and owners to get on the same page and clean up the sport.  But when players have their reputation unfairly slandered by defending someone else, they aren’t going to speak up.  And that’s a shame…

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