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Tuesday, October 22, 2019

All apologies

A storm is brewing surrounding the Houston Astros and their assistant GM, Brandon Taubman. According to a Sports Illustrated report, during the post-game lockerroom celebration on Saturday night, Taubman yelled (several times) towards three female journalists "Thank God we got Osuna! I'm so fucking glad we got Osuna!" This is in reference to reliever Roberto Osuna, who served a 75-game suspension for domestic violence, before signing with Houston this year (the charges, in Toronto, were dropped when the Mexican-national accuser refused to travel to Canada to testify).

The Astros say the story is misleading, that Taubman was supporting the player during a "difficult time" and responding to the "game situation that just occurred," and that the remarks were not directed at any persons. The second point seems odd, because the game situation was that Osuna had blown a two-run lead in the top of the ninth inning, only to have the Astros win it in the bottom of the ninth; it seems odd to shout about being glad to have signed a player who almost gave a clinching game away. MLB announced an investigation into the incident.

Taubman issued the following through the Astros:

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.

Yom Kippur, at which we think hard about apologies and what it means to apologize, has passed. But let's play with this.

What is Taubman apologizing for and how should we understand that apology? He is "deeply sorry" for his "inappropriate language," comments that were "unprofessional and inappropriate." But that is silly--profanity is quite common in sports and the three women, experienced sports reports, are used to hearing such language; it is not as if he swore at them. He apologized "if anyone was offended," the common non-apology-apology. Finally, he claims his statements have been misinterpreted. If so, how does that affect his apology. Should he have to apologize if he does not believe he did anything wrong? Do/must /should we apologize for someone else's misinterpretation or misunderstanding of our actions, actions that we believe were not wrong or harmful but that someone else has taken as wrong due to their mistake?

Update I: Marjorie Ingall of Tablet Magazine runs SorryWatch, a blog that analyzes apologies. She is not pleased.

Update II: The Astros GM Jeff Luhnow defended Taubman in a way that highlights my original question. Luhnow says we will never know the intent behind Taubman's inappropriate comments. Luhnow noted that Taubman apologized for his "inappropriate behavior" and for doing something that he regrets. But no one will say what that is--what was inappropriate and what does he regret? They are not helping themselves.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on October 22, 2019 at 06:43 PM in Howard Wasserman, Sports | Permalink


Perhaps the misinterpretation is less about the content of his comments and more about the context. From the NPR coverage of the incident, the female reporter would routinely go to Twitter to post DV hotline numbers when Osuna entered the game.

His position could be that he is apologizing for the outburst, but saying it's been misinterpreted as him just yelling unprovoked at someone wearing a DV awareness bracelet when he sees it as responding to someone who's been repeatedly attacking one of his players.

Posted by: Derek Tokaz | Oct 23, 2019 2:39:34 PM

He's 34. At what point do you cease being immature and just become an asshole?

Anyway, new reporting indicates that he targeted one reporter (who was wearing a purple anti-DV bracelet and who had written about DV stuff in the past) in the group, there were no players in the vicinity and no interviews being conducted, and that Taubman just started yelling at the three women.

Posted by: Howard Wasserman | Oct 22, 2019 9:25:39 PM

I take him to basically be saying this: he's sorry for the substance of his comments, not just their profanity, which he implicitly acknowledges had something to do with Osuna's domestic violence charges. (See "my comments were unprofessional and inappropriate," which suggests something broader than the bit about inappropriate language you highlight.) However, he denies actually having the regressive attitude he implicitly admits his comments displayed; that is, while he doesn't actually think domestic abuse is okay, in the inebriated excitement of winning the ALCS, and perhaps in a fit of prideful pique at reporters who criticized this signing in which he had a hand, he said something offensive and provocative that doesn't actually reflect how he feels -- as people, especially immature people, often do.

Posted by: Asher Steinberg | Oct 22, 2019 9:14:35 PM

In the same way that we do not judge a white person by the blackface they wear but by their support for affirmative action (Trudeau), so we should not judge a white person by what they say, but whether or not they vote for people who support affirmative action (like Biden).

Posted by: Obama-san | Oct 22, 2019 8:51:54 PM

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