Houston Astros Criticized for Response to Executive's Comments About Pitcher Roberto Osuna
Major League Baseball has since said it will "interview those involved" in the incident, which was reported by Sports Illustrated
The Houston Astros may be enjoying their second World Series run in three years, but behind-the-scenes, a public relations nightmare has been brewing as the team continues to fight back against comments made by an executive involving a player previously charged with domestic violence.
The comments — made in support of closer Roberto Osuna — were reported Monday night by Sports Illustrated in a story by staff writer Stephanie Apstein, who was in the clubhouse after the Astros clinched the American League pennant with a win against the New York Yankees.
The story included what appeared to be an off-handed comment repeated by Astros assistant general manager Brandon Taubman amid the celebration: “Thank God we got Osuna! I’m so f—ing glad we got Osuna!”
Apstein reported that Taubman’s quote was directed at a group of three female reporters, one of whom was wearing a purple domestic violence awareness bracelet. She also noted that his cries were “offensive and frightening” enough to warrant an apology from a different Astros employee.
Osuna, then a member of the Toronto Blue Jays, was arrested and charged with assault in May 2018 after allegedly hitting his girlfriend. He was suspended without pay for 75 games and was traded to the Astros in July 2018.
The charges against him were dropped in September 2018 after he agreed to stay away from his alleged victim for one year and continue counseling — and after she returned to Mexico and declined to testify, the Associated Press reported.
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Though SI reported that the Astros declined to comment on Taubman’s behavior prior to the story’s publication, the team hit back after it went live, accusing Apstein of taking the comments out of context and “fabricating” a story.
“The story posted by Sports Illustrated is misleading and completely irresponsible,” the team’s statement read, as reported by the Houston Chronicle. “An Astros player was being asked questions about a difficult outing. Our executive was supporting the player during a difficult time. His comments had everything to do about the game situation that just occurred and nothing else – they were also not directed toward any specific reporters. We are extremely disappointed in Sports Illustrated’s attempt to fabricate a story where one does not exist.”
The “difficult time” likely refers to the fact that Osuna, 24, gave up a two-run home run in the game that allowed the Yankees to tie it in the top of the ninth.
The statement was met with backlash from fans, who criticized the Astros for targeting Apstein.
“Independent of any discipline for Taubman, MLB should be investigating and potentially taking action against whoever within the Astros authored & approved the statement attacking @stephapstein, disparaging her integrity by falsely accusing her of fabricating a story,” baseball author Keith Law wrote on Twitter.
SI followed the Astros’ statement with one of its own that defended Apstein and her reporting, and cited other outlets who had corroborated the scene she’d witnessed.
The Houston Chronicle reported that the group of female reporters Apstein mentioned were about eight feet away from Taubman, but that there were no players in the area and no interviews being conducted at the time he made the comments.
Following criticisms of their initial comments, the Astros reversed course, releasing additional statements on Tuesday attributed to Taubman and owner Jim Crane.
“[I] used inappropriate language for which I am deeply sorry and embarrassed,” Taubman wrote, according to the Washington Post. “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.”
Taubman continued, defending himself as 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,” he wrote.
Many on social media criticized Taubman’s statement, too, claiming he circumvented an actual apology by using the word “if.”
“I’m a huge Astros fan and think Taubman’s statement was icky – far from an apology. He all but blamed them for being offended for what he did” one user wrote.
Added another user, “No ifs ands or buts. Taubman ‘apology’ inadequate and whoever wrote Astros terribly insensitive first statement on this episode needs to be educated to the rampant damage in society as a whole caused by domestic violence.”
Crane’s statement, meanwhile, said the Astros are “committed to using our voice to create awareness and support on the issue of domestic violence,” and noted that the team has made efforts to help fund groups that work to fight domestic violence, the Washington Post reported.
Major League Baseball has since announced it will investigate the incident, ESPN reported.
“Domestic violence is extraordinarily serious and everyone in baseball must use care to not engage in any behavior — whether intentional or not — that could be construed as minimizing the egregiousness of an act of domestic violence,” MLB’s statement read. “We became aware of this incident through the Sports Illustrated article. The Astros have disputed Sports Illustrated‘s characterization of the incident. MLB will interview those involved before commenting further.”
Taubman has worked for the Astros since 2013, and was promoted to assistant general manager last year, according to his LinkedIn profile.
The Astros are currently up against the Washington Nationals in the World Series, with the Nationals leading one game to zero.
If you are experiencing domestic violence, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233, or go to thehotline.org. All calls are toll-free and confidential. The hotline is available 24/7 in more than 170 languages.