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ROCKER'S SUSPENSION REDUCED BY MLB ARBITRATOR

ROCKER'S SUSPENSION REDUCED BY MLB ARBITRATOR

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          A 73-day suspension and $20,000 fine levied by MLB
     Commissioner Bud Selig on Braves P John Rocker for
     disparaging comments recently made in Sports Illustrated
     "was virtually overturned" yesterday by MLB arbitrator Shyam
     Das, according to Hal Bodley of USA TODAY.  Das' decision
     reduced Rocker's suspension to the first 14 days of the
     regular season and cut his fine to $500.  But Bodley notes
     that Selig's initial ruling "was probably doomed from the
     start, faced with a collective bargaining agreement that
     allows him to fine a player only $500."  Selig said
     yesterday that Das' action "doesn't reflect any
     understanding or sensitivity to the important social
     responsibility that baseball has to the public."  Meanwhile,
     MLBPA Associate General Counsel Gene Orza said that he was
     "disappointed the penalty was not reduced more but hoped the
     ruling wouldn't affect labor relations" (USA TODAY, 3/2). 
     Rocker writes an op-ed in today's ATLANTA CONSTITUTION prior
     to yesterday's announcement, in which he apologizes for his
     "careless and unkind" comments.  Rocker: "An apology is no
     more than just words unless it is followed by actions.  I
     hope in this coming year I may somehow redeem myself"
     (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 3/2).  But a coalition of Atlanta-
     area community groups "blasted" Das' ruling and "is calling
     for" the Braves to trade Rocker, who signed a one-year
     contract with the team Tuesday for $300,000.  Concerned
     Black Clergy President Rev. Timothy McDonald: "We have been
     insulted by this arbitrator.  And I hope and pray that the
     Braves would do the right thing" (ATL. CONSTITUTION, 3/2).
          REAX: In N.Y., Joel Sherman: "Today, John Rocker
     becomes the minority.  Every eye will look at him with
     suspicion, his every move will be monitored with distrust,
     his very presence will elicit anger" (N.Y. POST, 3/2).  In
     Atlanta, Tim Tucker, on the reduced fine: "Five hundred
     dollars.  That's almost as offensive as Rocker's comments. 
     I mean, he will make 10 times that much per inning" (ATLANTA
     CONSTITUTION, 3/2).  In Chicago, Jay Mariotti calls the fine
     "paltry" and writes, "It's a disturbingly small price to pay
     for the biggest pile of prejudice heard from a modern-day
     athlete. ... At the very least, he should have been required
     to gargle with the very sewer water he was dispensing"
     (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 3/2).  In Denver, Bob Kravitz: "The only
     good news is, this whole unseemly mess is nearly finished. 
     Until the Braves travel to New York.  Flak jackets are
     optional" (ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS, 3/2).  FSN's Keith
     Olbermann, on the ruling: "It may also lead to a trade,
     possibly to Montreal, and the delightful irony of Rocker,
     saved by a foreigner after his comments about foreigners,
     becoming a foreigner" ("Fox Sports News," FSN, 3/1).