Sports | February 23, 2021 12:13 pm

Seattle Mariners President Kevin Mather Resigns After Comments About Players

Mather, who made several comments about foreign-born players and their English proficiency, should have been fired years ago

Seattle Mariners President and CEO kevin mather
Seattle Mariners President and CEO Kevin Mather at Safeco Field on August 6, 2016 in Seattle, Washington.
Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

Seattle Mariners president and CEO Kevin Mather has stepped down after some controversial comments he made to a Bellevue, Washington Rotary Club on Feb. 5 were posted online over the weekend. Mariners chairman and managing partner John Stanton will take over immediately for Mather on an interim basis.

Mather found himself in hot water after his comments about some foreign-born players and their English proficiency, even complaining about the need to hire an interpreter for special assignment coach Hisashi Iwakuma.

“For instance, we just rehired Iwakuma; he was a pitcher with us for a number of years. Wonderful human being; his English was terrible,” Mather said. “He wanted to get back into the game; he came to us. We quite frankly want him as our Asian scout/interpreter, what’s going on with the Japanese league. He’s coming to spring training. And I’m going to say, I’m tired of paying his interpreter. When he was a player, we’d pay Iwakuma ‘X,’ but we’d also have to pay $75,000 a year to have an interpreter with him. His English suddenly got better. His English got better when we told him that.”

Mather also brought up English abilities when discussing minor league outfielder Julio Rodriguez. “Julio Rodriguez has got a personality bigger than all of you combined,” he said. “He is loud. His English is not tremendous.” In addition to those comments, he also addressed many of the team’s roster moves and financial decisions, saying longtime third baseman Kyle Seager is “overpaid” and admitting that prospects Jarred Kelenic and Logan Gilbert will not start the season on the team in an effort to manipulate their major league service time and keep them under club control longer.

“His comments were inappropriate and do not represent our organization’s feelings about our players, staff, and fans,” Stanton told reporters Monday. “There is no excuse for what was said, and I won’t try to make one. I offer my sincere apology on behalf of the club and my partners to our players and fans. We must be, and do, better. We have a lot of work to do to make amends, and that work is already underway.”

Major League Baseball also issued a statement about Mather’s comments, saying, “We condemn Kevin Mather’s offensive and disrespectful comments about several players. We are proud of the international players who have made baseball better through their outstanding examples of courage and determination, and our global game is far better because of their contributions. His misguided remarks do not represent the values of our game and have no place in our sport.”

Of course, these comments are just the latest transgression for Mather, who should have resigned or been fired years ago. Back in 2018, The Seattle Times reported that multiple women accused Mather and two other Mariners executives of sexual harassment and inappropriate workplace conduct. The team reached a settlement with the women, and Mather stayed on as president and CEO in a move that illustrates Major League Baseball’s willingness to brush its systemic sexual harassment problem under the rug.

It’s telling that he was allowed to stay on as long as he did, and one has to wonder whether his problematic comments about international players would have been enough on their own to get him out or if he only felt compelled to step down because he had also spoken out of turn about the team’s finances and roster moves. Have we finally reached a point where this kind of toxic culture is no longer acceptable in baseball, or are the Mariners only distancing themselves from Mather now because he threatened their bottom line?

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