Braves distance themselves from pitcher's remarks

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The Independent Online

Atlanta Braves pitcher John Rocker did not wait for the baseball season to return before he started verbally criticising his opponents and their fans again.

Atlanta Braves pitcher John Rocker did not wait for the baseball season to return before he started verbally criticising his opponents and their fans again.

Subway riders on the famously polyglot No 7 subway line through the New York City borough of Queens had little more than contempt and disbelief for Rocker on Wednesday after the left-hander abused New York - and the No 7 train - in an interview with Sports Illustrated magazine.

"Oh, you mean big mouth," said Ezequiel Guerrero, 21, as he waited for the No 7 at the subway station beneath Grand Central Terminal. "He talks a lot of trash. I think he gets off on that."

The pitcher - who called New York fans "stupid" and "a tired act" during the Braves' National League Championship Series against the Mets - bashed the city again in the SI interview.

"Imagine having to take the 7 train to (Shea Stadium) looking like you're (in) Beirut next to some kid with purple hair, next to some queer with AIDS, right next to some dude who got out of jail for the fourth time, right next to some 20-year-old mom with four kids," Rocker said. "It's depressing."

Rocker also attacked New York's famous diversity: "The biggest thing I don't like about New York are the foreigners. I'm not a very big fan of foreigners," he said. "You can walk an entire block in Times Square and not hear anybody speaking English. .... How the hell did they get into this country?"

The No 7 train was recognized - along with such famous American historical markers as the Lewis and Clark trail and the Iditarod National Historic trail in Alaska - by the White House earlier this year as one of 16 National Millennium Trails.

The Braves distanced themselves from the pitcher's remarks.

"The viewpoints attributed to John Rocker in no way represent those of the Atlanta Braves organization," general manager John Schuerholz said on Wednesday. "We have not yet had a conversation with John, but we intend to meet with him as soon as possible to review the statements."

Rocker retracted his comments in a statement, saying that he had "gone way too far in my competitive zeal" and "have said things which, when read with cold, hard logic, are unacceptable to me and to my country."

"I am contrite," he said. "Even though it might appear otherwise from what I've said, I am not a racist. ... My personality and view of life are much more complex than the simplistic, judgmental statements which were regrettably said."

New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, a dyed-in-the-wool Yankees fan, was taken aback by Rocker's comments.

"Something should be done about this so that Mr Rocker is held accountable for his vicious and bigoted remarks," Giuliani said. "I think it's a terrible attitude. It's a problem. I think the Braves actually have a responsibility to do something about this."

An official with New York's tourism agency said the city would be just fine without Rocker.

"When you hear foreign languages spoken on New York City streets, it attests to our role in the world, offering a safe haven and open welcome to newcomers," New York Convention and Visitors Bureau spokeswoman Cristyne Lategano said. "Rocker says it's depressing. What is depressing are his narrow-minded and racist views. He is certainly one visitor New York City can do without."