The ol’ Friday news dump. MLB tried to slip this one by us, announcing Justin Turner will not face discipline for flouting the league’s COVID protocols during the Dodgers’ World Series celebration.
Turner was removed from Game 6 of the Fall Classic between Los Angeles and Tampa Bay after returning a positive COVID test. The 35-year-old was initially absent from the celebration, watching the trophy and World Series MVP presentations from the clubhouse doctor’s office alongside his wife Kourtney. However, Turner eventually resurfaced for a team photo and was even spotted without a mask at one point. The Dodgers and MLB were widely criticized for letting Turner out of isolation and were fortunate he didn’t spread the virus to any of his teammates.
Commissioner Rob Manfred elaborated on the incident in a statement shared Friday, calling Turner’s presence on the field a “miscommunication” while acknowledging that the league handled the situation poorly. “Mr. Turner’s teammates actively encouraged him to leave the isolation room and return to the field for a photograph. Many teammates felt they had already been exposed to Mr. Turner and were prepared to tolerate the additional risk,” detailed Manfred, describing the post-game environment at Globe Life Field as “chaotic.” “Major League Baseball could have handled the situation more effectively. For example, in retrospect, a security person should have been assigned to monitor Mr. Turner when he was asked to isolate and Mr. Turner should have been transported from the stadium to the hotel more promptly.”
Manfred went on to say that in speaking with Turner, the Dodgers third baseman “recognized that his conduct was wrong” and “expressed remorse” for putting his teammates in harm’s way. Turner explained his side of things in a statement of his own, apologizing for removing his mask and not waiting for teammates to leave the field before taking a photo with his wife. “What was intended to be a photo capturing the two of us turned into several greetings and photos where I briefly and unwisely removed my mask,” wrote Turner, a one-time All-Star and 12-year major-league vet. “I sincerely apologize to everyone on the field for failing to appreciate the risks of returning to the field. I have spoken with almost every teammate, coach and staff member and my intentions were never to make anyone uncomfortable or put anyone at further risk.”
Dodgers president and CEO Stan Kasten offered his own insight on the matter, calling the mishap with Turner “unfortunate.” “The events involving Justin Turner during the World Series celebration unfolded rapidly and chaotically and were ultimately regrettable. The Dodger organization takes the health and safety of everyone associated with staging a baseball game extraordinarily seriously and are committed to putting in place better processes for future events.”
Those explanations, though plenty thorough, may not satisfy all the league’s critics. By releasing these statements on a Friday afternoon in the midst of a hotly contested presidential election, it also seems evident MLB was trying to bury the outcome of its Turner investigation (which resulted in no formal punishment) for fear of further backlash. At least Turner and commissioner Manfred owned up to their mistakes, taking responsibility for the roles each played in last week’s debacle. While many COVID patients have experienced dire consequences (the illness has taken over 240,000 lives in the U.S. alone), Turner claimed to be asymptomatic.