"Free John Rocker!"

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by William L. Anderson

One of the more horrific practices of the old Soviet Union was the policy of warehousing political dissidents into psychiatric institutions where they were subject to various tortures, drugs, and general humiliation. While the Soviets were still in the good graces of the American Psychiatric Association, which refused to condemn that policy as a misuse of the tools of the profession, most folks outside that profession recognized such actions as outright evil.

My, how times change. The Cold War is over, but Soviet psychiatric policies continue — over here.

John Rocker, a highly touted relief pitcher for the 1999 National League Champions Atlanta Braves, recently made a number of controversial remarks during an interview with Sports Illustrated. Please bear in mind that the purpose of SI’s article was to goad Rocker into saying negative things about New York City residents in general and Mets fans in particular so to create controversy. Rocker, 25, being a bit impetuous and immature, fell into the trap.

Among other sins, Rocker said that if one were to ride the New York subway, he might find himself sitting next to a “queer with AIDS.” He also referred to an overweight black teammate as “a fat monkey.”

Taken into context, Rocker’s remarks were no more offensive than the daily rantings of Al Sharpton, New York’s resident race baiter, or the head of Planned Parenthood when talking about Christian anti-abortion foes. Sharpton is an advisor to Hillary Clinton’s U.S. Senatorial campaign. Planned Parenthood receives hundreds of millions of dollars via U.S. taxpayers.

However, Rocker has been sent to the psychiatrist. That’s right. The leadership of Major League Baseball has decreed that John Rocker must undergo psychiatric evaluation before the MLB brass decides his fate, which is either likely to be a lengthy suspension or outright expulsion from professional baseball. In other words, if John Rocker does not carry the same social viewpoints of the Politically Correct, he must be crazy.

True, it might have been better had Rocker kept such comments to himself. He is not the maturest 25-year-old in our society, although his judgement is probably no worse than that of the typical member of the Washington, D.C., political class. What is outrageous, however, is how authorities have responded to his words.

Major League Baseball is a private organization, which means that it can set any rules it wants for players, coaches, and office personnel. If it wants to hire only gay rights activists, it should have that privilege. Should MLB deem only lefthanders be permitted to be pitchers, so be it. Government should not be allowed to interfere with the constitutional rights of that organization.

However, the fact that MLB is private has not kept politicos from Jesse Jackson to Al Gore from weighing in. The Clinton Administration has even hinted at investigating Rocker to find whether or not his attitudes violate federal law.

Now Rocker, who has apologized numerous times for his comments, finds himself on the way to the psychiatrist’s office. That alone should be condemned as an outrage. If political correctness has gone so far as to demand psychiatric treatment for everyone who makes what are deemed socially inappropriate remarks, then all of us are in mortal danger.

If the top brass at MLB is in a quandary about how to handle John Rocker, no doubt there are some psychiatrists in Russia who can be of help. Admission to an institution, a few shots of this and a few doses of that, and Rocker will be just fine. As for the rest of us, maybe we should try to redetermine just who in our society is crazy, and who is not.

January 8, 2000

Professor Anderson teaches economics at North Greenville College in South Carolina.

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