Friday, February 17, 2012

Umpire Academy Owner Jim Evans Apologizes for Racially Insensitive Incident

Less than a week removed from umpiring's biggest story of the 2012 offseason, the name owner of the Jim Evans Academy for Professional Umpiring has unequivocally and without qualification apologized for the racially inappropriate incident which occurred during a staff bowling party during the 2012 professional course, stating, "I apologize I regret it sincerely (sic)."

In an exclusive interview with WKMG-Orlando, Evans admitted he was too slow to react to the inappropriate costume perpetrated by JEAPU Director Jason Klein, as by the time Evans noticed that Klein and his three teammates were wearing white conical covers and robes emblazoned with "Klein's Kleaning Krew"—with the capital "KKK" emphasized—it was too late and the team had changed into standard bowling attire.

But by then, the damage had been done. The racially-charged "joke" had been observed and in a classic case of harassment in the workplace, a lone black employee was left to absorb the event, knowing full well that Evans had declined to address the issue, even after it had occurred.

Now, it is absolutely too late. Evans' apology comes considerably later than last week's news-break, after MiLB took its severe death penalty action and after MiLB beat Evans to the punch in firing those minor league umpires found to have played a culpable role in the incident.

So watch the video and judge for yourself: is Evans' apology sincere? Does it call into question MiLB's punishment as too strict or does it justify the death penalty? Now, a week later, does Evans truly get it?

And what business is it of ours to learn the names of the fired three umpires? If it is news, it will certainly be reported, but is it really fair to permanently label someone for what would appear to be a temporary non-criminal lapse in judgment?

The Instructors roster at the Academy website certainly could provide a list of potential subjects, but is it really fair to judge the innocent alongside the guilty? And what are the remaining three guilty of other than a racially insensitive workplace gag-gone-wrong, an offense committed in a laid back atmosphere of professional officiating that encourages the raucous behavior that constantly breaches on the offensive, if not for any reason other than profanity?

We already know MiLB has fired the remaining three—isn't that enough to leave the rest alone?

19 comments :

Anonymous said...

Judgement is kind of a critical component of umpiring. Everyone knows when you get into professional baseball you need to fly below the radar. Painting these jacklegs as the victims reflects your ignorance.

Anonymous said...

Gil:

Your comment - "And what are the remaining three guilty of other than a racially insensitive workplace gag-gone-wrong..."

Yes, they're guilty of it and, more importantly, in most states and most professional work environments this would be grounds for termination. At least it would require a formal notification to the employee of the incorrect behavior and then they would be put on a 'plan' to monitor their performance and/or the individuals would have to take diversity training and/or racial sensitivity classes.

You'll note that nowhere in Jim's mea culpa did he acknowledge this nor did he suggest that steps would/could/should be taken to address the behavior other than to acknowledge that they should be punished, but should not be punished as harshly as they were. If Evans is expecting to 'mitigate' the punishment as he has suggested, then he should identify and establish the guidelines that any basic human resources department would require that he institute. That's part of being 'professional' regardless of whether you're a professional umpire, an accountant, CEO, etc.

Your comment - "...an offense committed in a laid back atmosphere of professional officiating that encourages the raucous behavior that constantly breaches on the offensive, if not for any reason other than profanity?"

The mere fact that it 'breaches on the offensive' alone is a problem unto itself and I question why that a.) it's allowed to exist in the first place and b.) why it's apparently condoned by Evans and you? There's an irony here that many of us who work the amateur baseball ranks have to sit through hours upon hours of 'training' to deal with kids and diversity, especially those of us in urban areas where we may be very different than the demographic makeup of youth we officiate. Are you suggesting that once you get into the professional ranks of baseball officiating, that sensitivity requirement just goes out the window or simply isn't required?

This incident casts a shadow on every Evans graduate, especially those that are in the professional ranks today. If this behavior has just been caught now, how long has it gone on? How can anyone not question the integrity and judgment capability of an Evans umpire based on this story and what's worse...where are all the Evans school people acknowledging this was bad behavior?

I know many Evans umpire graduates who are great umpires, great people and who wouldn't necessarily condone racially insensitive and/or inappropriate behavior and I get the fact that a few bad apples don't spoil the barrel. But this situation and this response from Evans is not an acknowledgement of something incorrect, it's an acknowledgement of a situation that has been condoned for a long time and has now simply been exposed for what it is. That's just not an appropriate response.

Had Evans come out and indicated that he was instituting changes, I'd be more supportive of his positioning the PBUC used a knee-jerk reaction to sever ties with his school and that there were ulterior motives at play. There may very well be, and that situation is equally disturbing and unfortunate.

However, given that Jim doesn't 'get it' and apparently isn't going to 'get it', that decision, however ill-conceived or malicious may, in fact, turn out to be the right one in the end.

No one is perfect, and we all have our issues, but as the previous poster indicated, judgment, especially where it involves impacting other people, is a cornerstone of the umpiring profession. If that can't be executed even remotely professionally off the baseball field, how can we be sure it will ever be executed professional on the baseball field?

Umpires, everywhere, are tarnished by this activity. To condone it directly or indirectly, in any fashion, is unacceptable.

Gil Imber said...

@8:59AM,

As I mentioned in my previous post about the subject, "The Evans Academy employees' actions clearly were indefensible ... the bowling alley incident is an embarrassment to officiating not just in baseball, but across all sports."

The only question, of course, is whether the punishment fits the misconduct and ultimately comes down to "does he get it?"

In regards to the atmosphere that sometimes can exist in officiating (often at levels where the activity is full-time, such as pro and during school/camp in particular), the behavior often strengthens male bonding and is played out in masculine sports psychology through varying degrees of machoism.

In such an environment where competition is incredibly high, there is an incredible amount of pressure to fit into the community—and specifically demonstrate a capability and desire to stay or advance. Groups are formed and these groups bond in such a raucous way because it is meant to portray confidence in one's abilities that implicitly translates into officiating. The more "risky," the closer the activity is meant to bond, which partially explains the offended umpire's dilemma in complaining to Evans and eventually MiLB.

In such a pyramid-type structure where there are fewer "wanted" high-level assignments than stepping stone or "unwanted" low-league games, pressure to succeed and advance can be manifested in this type of behavior. It tells outsiders not to encroach or threaten the group (threaten to take their higher-level jobs away) while bonding participants by creating trust.

For JEAPU, the worst part is these were instructors. These were not students gone wrong or troublemakers who crashed a party, these were instructors invited to an instructors-only party. People in a position of trust. Chances are very good that the instructors would not have done this had this been a public party. They thought they could push the envelope in the "safety" of their elite group—they were wrong.

Anonymous said...

I'm a former graduate of the 2008 Jim Evans Academy & I never noticed any misconduct of any manner of their professional instructing staff during my 1 month stay in which AJ was a field instructor at the time.

I was offer and granted a financial scholarship to attend the Evans Academy and was very thankful to have received a personal phone call from Mr. Evans directly expressing his interest in having me on board as one of his students that year; it was Jim's personal call which allowed me that golden opportunity of a inner-city student from Boston, MA. to back my bags to prepare for a 1 month stay in Kissimmee, FL. at the Houston Astros Training Complex.

Furthermore, Jason Klein & Evans have donated to the Roxbury Community College Baseball teams fundraiser held the past two seasons to send us to Maryland for a chance to compete competitively against other DII programs during spring break.

Lastly, as a former graduate of the academy, I was honored to have attended the Jim Evans Academy of Professional Umpiring and learned a great deal of book knowledge & field mechanics. In addition, this opportunity has build an ever lasting bond of friendships along the way with many of the students and staff instructors. I hope this controversy doesn't ruin what took Mr. Evans over twenty-five plus year to build.

Anonymous said...

Good people make mistakes. Bad people make mistakes. Are we to suggest that since Evans is by all accounts, a wonderful person, he should be judged less harshly?
To make the point more clearly, if Evans is a true Klan sympathizer then he should loose his job, but if his people were just joking then the punishment doesn't fit the offense.
So if your a good guy, it's ok, but if your a bad guy, you should burn.
I can think of no other form of satire that could compare to wearing a Klan outfit.
Look at it this way, if your a Black person, you or most likely your realitives, had to edure the terror of the klan 1st hand. and now 40 years later the klan has become simply satire to some. If you google Medgar Evers, you mite see how Black people could still find any reference to the klan as offensive.
Nazi's costumes, and an Osama Bin Laden costume would fall into the same catagory.
How would you like to have had a relative die on 9/11 and look over to the next bowling alley and see 4 guys dressed like the murder or your mother or father.
Evans should have went to the Lane were the idiots were and sent them home, and explanined to the umpires how wrong they were. I live in the northen U.S., and a klan outfit would be ridiculous to wear. I can't even imagine how offensive a klan costume would be in the area were the klan terrorized.
I don't think we've come to a point were the klan is simply a joke in the south.

Arik said...

I still firmly believe that the three "numbskulls" that were part of Klein's Kleaning Krew need to be named. It is unfair that AJ gets his name in the papers and such and will be most likely thought of as "the guy that brought down the Jim Evans' Academy". That is wrong. It is these three that did it. Not AJ. But we all know that he will get the blame.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, there are pictures of this event. These could have come out later and embarrassed MiLB baseball regardless of how one felt on the issue. Once the deed was done there is no turning back. If AJ makes it too the Big Leagues, someone will say he made it because of this event. If AJ doesn't make it, someone will say it was because of this event. Regardless of what Jim did, the decision was all Pat O'Connors to make. O'Connor had to play umpire and act quickly and decisively. He determined that the only punishment that would fit the crime was banishment for the Evans school and some instructors. Jim is the captain of the ship. Even if it was the instructors fault, Jim is captain of the ship and must accept the blame (which he is) and also the decision and go down with the ship. It has happened many other times, where the person at the top must accept the consequences of those working under him/her and either be punished along with them or resign. Very unfortunate for all involved in this on both sides.

Anonymous said...

Maybe AJ felt that with the pictures, he could somehow be found cupable at a later date and be terminated. Maybe he just felt something wrong had happened and felt it must be reported since he was there. He probably risked getting himself terminated or maybe it was in hope to save himself. Many are going to question his motives or the way he handled it no matter what he did in this situation. Obviously he felt this incident was too blatant to go unreported and fix behind closed doors. But, his employer is MiLB, and he felt they should know about this incident which occurred at one of their independent contractors. Many people skip over their supervisors and managers and go right to HR when something happens at their companies that they think should be reported, for many different reasons. Once it was reported, now it was MiLB's turn to take over. MiLB chose to send Klemm to investigate. The could have sent someone else from MiLB but they chose Klemm who is the executive director of PBUC. Klemm also had no choice since his employer said to go investigate. It does not matter which of the 2 umpire schools Klemm attended years ago. Klemm investigated and reported back to MiLB. Once O'Connor had the report it was all up to him to make a decision on what to do. He decided to eject Evans and some umpires from MiLB as a contractor rather than let them stay in the game with some other type punishment. He felt they had crossed the line and that the infraction warranted ejection and termination. It was his decision to make and he made it. If one does not agree with the decision, do not blame (if you want to call it that) anyone other than O'Connor. It was his decision to make and his alone.

Anonymous said...

Having spent time around Jim Evans, I'm sure he had a snoot full and didn't even realize what had happened. I'm sure he regrets even being there now. He is the one in charge and will have to bear the brunt of all the criticism. One down and one more to go. Who in their right mind would attend a school that has instructors that don't have the power to put you in the game. It's just a matter of time before the other school gets squeezed out as well.

Anonymous said...

Several years ago, Don Rickles was roasted on the Dean Martin show. His relentless energy and ethnic stereotypes were made for the low-brow world of roasting. But with Rickles on the receiving end, the best moment occurred when Casey Kasem, the legendary DJ behind "Casey’s Top 40," entered the stage dressed as Hitler to honor his “buddy boy, a real sweetheart of a guy, Donald Rickles.” The Hitler impression is brilliant, and his closing line to Rickles is: “You are the only man I know who has bombed more places than I have.”

Everybody knows Hitler committed far worse atrocities than the KKK. However, Casey Kasem wasn’t fired or even punished for this “insensitive” incident; instead he was applauded for his creative sense of humor.

The umpires annual bowling party is conducted in the spirit of friendly fun, harmless antics, and pranks among umpires who are very good friends. Few people realize how well umpires get to know each other. Not only do they work together on the ball field, but they also eat together, sleep together (sharing hotel rooms), and spend more time together than most families. This closeness creates a bond not found in any other profession. The umpires at the annual bowling party knew that everything was done in the spirit of good fun among close friends. Nobody was insulted as evidenced by photos and videos not published that show EVERYONE having a great time BEFORE and AFTER the incident. NOBODY felt uneasy at that time. Only the umpires in attendance know the truth and understand this. There are many possible reasons why the only black umpire in attendance waited several days before he claimed the incident made him feel “uneasy”. Think about it.

Troy said...

"Several years ago"?! That roast was *forty* years ago. That is not the best example to support your argument.

Anonymous said...

Are you kidding? Its an excellent example. The two critcal elements to compare are:
1. A celebrity roast and the bowling party are both among good friends in the spirit of harmless fun.
2. Hitler committed far worse atrocities than the KKK. However, nobody was punished for this Hitler “insensitive” incident.

Are you really unable to make these connections?

Jon said...

The problem is that Rickles and others are paid to be extremely off-color: shock value is huge in that business, it's precisely what people pay to see.

Umpires are paid to call baseball games. As you mentioned, it's absolutely no different than good friends having harmless fun. Except that a few friends crossed the line and offended another friend who didn't want to cause a scene so he kept it to himself until he couldn't any more...

Troy said...

It's a poor example because 40 years ago nobody was getting fired for being racially insensitive. I don't think anyone was making Hitler or KKK references at the Charlie Sheen roast last year, but if they had maybe, *maybe*, that would bolster your argument. But as the poster above said, there's a difference between comedians who are paid to be offensive and umpires who are paid to be fair.

Anonymous said...

WOW! where did this come from? "a few friends crossed the line and offended another friend who didn't want to cause a scene so he kept it to himself until he couldn't any more... "

You just made that up, it is YOUR speculation. HERE ARE THE FACTS: Nobody was insulted as is clearly evidenced by photos and videos that are available (but not mentioned in the news) that CLEARLY show EVERYONE having a great time BEFORE and AFTER the incident. Only the umpires in attendance know the truth and understand this. There are many possible reasons why the black umpire in attendance waited several days before he claimed the incident made him feel uneasy. Think about it! What might be some other possible reasons? Do umpires have a ranking system that determines who advances to the next level? How might an umpire move his name up on the list? Would it be hard to resist an opportunity to capitalize on this off-color joke? PUT ON YOUR THINKING CAP! Only the umpires in attendance know the truth and understand this.

Anonymous said...

Another hidden agenda: The black umpire was unknowingly used as a pawn in an ugly scheme to discredit Jim Evans academy. Why? because the new umpire academy run by the minor leagues now has one less competitor. THINK ABOUT IT. The Minor Leagues made the decision to disqualify Jim Evans Academy and fire the 3 umpires who wore a KKK hat for 2 minutes. How odd that the Minor League's new academy is the beneficiary! They just accelerated their return on investment by boosting the demand for 3 new umpires and eliminating the supply (Jim Evans Academy). They will soon have a monopoly, the only thing left standing in their way now is the other academy: LOOK OUT Harry Wendelstedt Umpire School, YOU ARE ON THIN ICE and Pat Oconner, MiLB President, has you in his crosshairs!

Jon said...

Uh oh, it's a conspiracy theory. Look, I agree that MiLB doesn't want JEAPU and Wendelstedt competing/teaching something MiLB isn't controlling at all times, but I doubt there was an ulterior motive on the victim's part. For instance, most rape victims don't report the rape within twenty-four hours and reporters who are fabricating their story with the intention of harming an innocent suspect tend to report the "crime" sooner than those who are really victims of a real crime (Southern Illinois University). Now, half the stats about that category of crime are 100% false (ever heard of the 1-in-4 number? Total BS, not to mention mathematically improbable), but the psychology of victim shock and the "willing participant theory," those are real and explain the vic's decision not to report immediately.

Ever heard of statute of limitations? This and similar reasons are part of the reason that exists.

Buzz said...

I'll tell you who would be foolish enough to attend Jim Evan's Academy. Any person who wants to be a better man/woman, one who wants to be a better umpire, one who wants to learn how to be a more humble person and how to respect all men no matter their race, religion, economic status or gender. I love him like a father and I would pay to attend another class. My name is Buzz Hodge and I stand with Jim Evans! Class of 2011

Buzz said...

I'll tell you who would be foolish enough to attend Jim Evan's Academy. Any person who wants to be a better man/woman, one who wants to be a better umpire, one who wants to learn how to be a more humble person and how to respect all men no matter their race, religion, economic status or gender. I love him like a father and I would pay to attend another class. My name is Buzz Hodge and I stand with Jim Evans! Class of 2011

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