Though once considered America's greatest pastime, baseball hasn't been in the best spotlight as of late—and the Houston Astros aren't helping.
The latest gaffe became public this past Monday when an article about the Astros' weekend game dropped at Sports Illustrated. The article was written by reporter Stephanie Apstein, who was present in the Astros' locker room while they celebrated after the game.
Apstein was accompanied by several other female reporters. One of them, who asked to remain anonymous, was wearing a bracelet to support the end of domestic violence.
Seemingly out of nowhere, the team's assistant general manager, Brandon Taubman, began to taunt the women. He seemed overly excited and perhaps even incoherent, as he hooted and hollered about the Astros acquiring player Robert Osuna.
This was odd at the moment, because the reporters were only there to cover the team's success at the weekend game. No one had inquired about the team's current players or Osuna's position on the team.
Taubman's off-color celebration felt entirely out-of-place and aggressive.
It's been gathered since then that Taubman observed the one reporter's bracelet and was taunting her about the Astros' acquiring Osuna, despite his history with domestic violence.
The allegations against Osuna include being reported for beating his three-year-old son's mother. He was temporarily suspended by his former team, The Blue Jays. The Astros later traded for him, despite his history and charges, which placed the team in a poor light with domestic violence awareness advocates.
Nevertheless, Taubman celebrated Osuna's presence on the team in front of the women, so aggressively that someone came forward to apologize to the women before they left the locker room.
On Monday, Stephanie Apstein's article, which included details about what happened in the locker room, appeared in Sports Illustrated.
"[I]n the center of the room, assistant general manager Brandon Taubman turned to a group of three female reporters, including one wearing a purple domestic-violence awareness bracelet, and yelled, half a dozen times, 'Thank God we got Osuna! I'm so f-----g glad we got Osuna!'"
"The outburst was offensive and frightening enough that another Houston staffer apologized. The Astros declined to comment. They also declined to make Taubman available for an interview."
Instead of using Apstein's reporting as an opportunity to publicly apologize for Taubman's behavior, launch an internal investigation and to recover some of the team's reputation, the team instead fired back at Sports Illustrated and questioned Apstein's abilities as a reporter.
In a Tweet, the Astros organization said:
The Astros just released the following statement. https://t.co/KnA6kQt0hq— Chandler Rome (@Chandler Rome)1571711193.0
The statement was not well-received.
So by Tuesday afternoon, a new statement was issued in its place saying an investigation into what happened in the locker room was underway.
Though the new statement appeared to be more on-point, Taubman and team owner Jim Crane both held to the idea that the information released by Sports Illustrated was misleading—another attack on Apstein's credentials and abilities.
Taubman claimed only using "inappropriate language" and said:
"My overexuberance in support of a player has been misinterpreted as a demonstration of a regressive attitude about an important social issue."
Crane followed up, stating:
"The Astros continue to be committed to using our voice to create awareness and support on the issue of domestic violence."
These statements are an improvement from the last, and they do not completely disassociate themselves from the problem at hand. However, some still view these statements as falling short of an apology, or taking any real responsibility for what happened at the beginning of the week.
Buster Olney of ESPN responded on Twitter, comparing the men's statements to their original allegations against Sports Illustrated and Stephanie Apstein.
Until the Astros’ FO acknowledges its statement last night was “misleading” and “completely irresponsible,” it will… https://t.co/raeKJsmFcZ— Buster Olney (@Buster Olney)1571773841.0
The next follow-up piece appeared on Tuesday evening, right around the same time the World Series between the Astros and the Washington Nationals began. This one was written by NPR's David Folkenflik, and it was the most condemning of them all, suggesting a direct correlation between Taubman's behavior and the woman wearing the domestic violence awareness bracelet.
"According to three eyewitnesses interviewed by NPR, Taubman appeared to be responding to the presence of a female reporter who was wearing a purple rubber bracelet to heighten awareness about domestic violence."
"That reporter has tweeted repeatedly about the issue over the years. Taubman complained last year that some of the reporter's informational tweets—promoting domestic violence hotline telephone numbers, for example—appeared moments after Osuna entered several Astros games in relief."
Between its condemning evidence and timing with the World Series game, Folkenflik's statement was the final straw for the Houston Astros.
On Thursday, the team released a letter of resolution, claiming that they were not originally aware that Taubman's actions were directed toward any of the women specifically—and that he has since been fired for his actions.
The team also pointedly apologized to Stephanie Apstein for questioning her credibility and accusing her of falsifying information.
Jeff Passan of ESPN wrote:
In a statement announcing the firing of Brandon Taubman, the Astros admitted their initial accounting of the incide… https://t.co/fGfTZsyeXr— Jeff Passan (@Jeff Passan)1571949544.0
Though this statement was released, the whole situation certainly changed how many baseball fans view the Astros.
It's distracted many fans away from the World Series.
@AdamCSchroeder @Buster_ESPN @ESPNFootball19 Should have just fired him and let that be the first statement— Travis Vymos (@Travis Vymos)1571776142.0
@JeffPassan @stephapstein Great. Now do Roberto Osuna.— John Nagy (@John Nagy)1571949805.0
@OrtizKicks In other words, we had no idea this would blow up the way it did. Uh, sorry.— Brent Kaneshiro (@Brent Kaneshiro)1571980199.0
@OrtizKicks Their credibility is ruined. They admitted to buying public sentiment rather they create a culture wher… https://t.co/lKlP179ypS— jaclost (@jaclost)1571976842.0
Maybe this will serve as a reminder to continue to talk about and prioritize domestic violence awareness and general safety—even if it comes in the way of baseball.
And to listen to women. Had Astros management made that choice instead of attacking Apstein, they could have avoided most of the backlash.
The book No Visible Bruises: What We Don't Know About Domestic Violence Can Kill Us is available here.