More than 24 hours after Kevin Mather’s near hour-long tirade that managed to insult virtually every member of the Mariners organization from game day staff to fans, Mather has resigned his position as team president:
Much like Mather’s initial bizarre, Scarface-like barrage of insults directed at nearly everyone associated in any capacity with the team, there is Much To Unpack here in majority owner (and now acting president) John Stanton’s statement. I was nervous when the team allowed Mather to release a statement through official media channels that there was image rehabilitation at play, pointing to him keeping his job, and curious about how Mather, as a minority owner of the team, would (or could) be divested from not only his position but his ownership in the club.
Make no mistake: it is a net good that Kevin Mather, a cancerous growth on the face of this organization from the time he darkened its door, is no longer the team president of the Seattle Mariners. But the softness of this statement and the bald-faced lies contained within show how soft the landing can be for a man of Mather’s stature. (One such aspect of the soft landing: firing vs. resigning. Firing Mather would have been more satisfying to the public, but might have been more difficult under his contract as opposed to strenuously encouraging him to resign. Also, recall that John Stanton said publicly he was “Kevin Mather’s biggest fan” at the time Stanton ascended to lead the ownership group, which gives you an idea of the relationship between the two.)
Like the statement last night, and as John pointed out in his piece, when Stanton says Mather’s comments do not represent the organization’s feelings, that is disingenuous on its face, because in so many ways, Mather was the organization. He was a long-tenured employee with an ownership stake in the club who was promoted multiple times before receiving the title of team president and CEO. He appeared on-field every time an important award was being given out—I know, because I’ve cropped him out of all those shots when we published them on the site. The only time I remember him fading into the background, in fact, was directly after the Seattle Times broke the story about his sexual harassment settlement, and even then, he was right back on the field weeks later, representing the Seattle Mariners. Trying to claim Mather’s views don’t represent the organization he was the face of not only rewrites history, but fails to own up to the role Mather played in shaping and maintaining the organization’s values. If you’re going to allow the man to go out and brand himself an executive representing the Seattle Mariners, you have to accept the fallout when that man acts heinously as a representative of the Seattle Mariners. That goes beyond just writing an apology and into accepting responsibility for the organizational culture that allowed Mather to grow and flourish.
The rest of the statement is made up of vague promises to do better and acknowledgements that “we have a lot of work to do” without specifically defining what doing better looks like or what that work will consist of, or who will be doing it. No apologies are offered to the specific people harmed by Mather’s comments (just “players and fans”), perhaps because the club is still cataloguing the breadth of that group. This is a statement that is unfortunately familiar to Mariners fans, who will recall the team’s promise this summer to “utilize our voice and our resources to join with all those working to end systemic racism.” And yet Mather, as a representative of the team, was allowed to continue on and eventually appear at a rotary club breakfast where he described the team’s top Dominican prospect as “loud” and, apropos of absolutely nothing, insulted that same prospect’s proficient English as “not tremendous”; then went on to insult a team employee and beloved former player’s English as “terrible” and implied he could learn English at will, with the proper financial incentives. That’s a different kind of racism than what players were kneeling on the field to protest, but it’s racism nonetheless. Nowhere in the statement is this reckoned with, although one has to assume personal, private apologies are being made to both Julio Rodríguez and Hisashi Iwakuma. However, for fans who felt personally targeted by Mather’s lazy, dismissive characterization of second-language learners, there is no apology given.
None of us are who we are at our worst moments, but a casual chat with the rotary club wasn’t Mather under fire; it was an unvarnished look at the mindset of a high-level baseball executive, one who walked the halls at the ballpark every day, weighed in on hiring decisions, spoke to stakeholders, and stood on the field as a representative of the Seattle Mariners and their values. This statement does get this right: the Mariners do “have a lot of work to do to make amends.”