The Seattle Mariners have suspended catcher Steve Clevenger for the racially insensitive tweets he posted Thursday to his Twitter account regarding the civil unrest in Charlotte, N.C.
In a statement Friday afternoon, Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said Clevenger, a Pigtown native, Mount Saint Joseph graduate and former Oriole, has been suspended without pay for the rest of the season, leaving 30-year-old backup's major league future in doubt.
"As soon as we became aware of the tweets posted by Steve yesterday we began to examine all of our options in regard to his standing on the team," Dipoto said. "Today we have informed him that he is suspended for the remainder of the season without pay."
Clevenger deleted his account and apologized after posting the messages before returning with his tweets protected. A Twitter user, @cablebox666, posted screengrabs of the messages, the first of which was posted Thursday afternoon.
"Black people beating whites when a thug got shot holding a gun by a black officer haha [stuff] cracks me up. Keep kneeling for the Anthem!" wrote Clevenger, who hasn't played for the Mariners since late June after suffering a broken hand and a flexor strain in his right elbow.
"[Black Lives Matter] is pathetic once again! Obama you are pathetic once again! Everyone involved should be locked behind bars like animals!"
Buck Showalter, who managed Clevenger with the Orioles from 2013 to 2015, declined to give an extended reaction to the tweets.
"I'm still kind of collecting my thoughts on it. It obviously wasn't good and that's putting it mildly," Showalter said.
Clevenger apologized for the remarks in a statement, which was posted to Fox reporter Ken Rosenthal's Facebook page: "I am sickened by the idea that anyone would think of me in racist terms. My tweets were reactionary to the events I saw on the news and were worded beyond poorly at best and I can see how and why someone could read into my tweets far more deeply than how I actually feel.
"I grew up on the streets of Baltimore, a city I love to this very day. I grew up in a very culturally diverse area of America and I am very proud to come from there. I am also proud that my inner circle of friends has never been defined by race but by the content of their character. Any former teammate or anyone who has met me can attest to this and I pride myself on not being a judgmental person. I just ask that the public not judge me because of an ill-worded tweet."
The tweets came in the wake of violent protests in North Carolina's largest city following the fatal shooting of Keith Scott, 43, by a black police officer Tuesday. Gov. Pat McCrory declared a state of emergency in the midst of Wednesday's rioting, during which one man was critically wounded by a gunshot.
In his statement, Clevenger said, "I do believe that supporting our First Amendment rights and supporting local law enforcement are not mutually exclusive. With everything going on in the world I really just want what is best for everyone regardless of who they are. I, like many Americans, are frustrated by a lot of things in the world and I would like to be a part of the dialogue moving forward to make this a better world for everyone."
Dipoto had earlier said the Mariners "are very disappointed" by the tweets.
"The Seattle Mariners are very disappointed at the tweets posted on Steve Clevenger's account. While he is certainly free to express himself, his tweets do not in any way represent the opinions of the Seattle Mariners," Dipoto said in a statement tweeted by the Mariners. "We strongly disagree with the language and tone of his comments."
Clevenger's comments on the decision of professional athletes such as San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick to kneel for the national anthem have particular resonance in Baltimore. Orioles center fielder Adam Jones made headlines last week when he was asked why no black baseball players have protested racial inequality or police brutality.
"We already have two strikes against us already," Jones told USA Today, "so you might as well not kick yourself out of the game. In football, you can't kick them out. You need those players. In baseball, they don't need us. Baseball is a white man's sport."
Jones was asked about his former teammate's tweets before Friday's game and said he hadn't heard Clevenger say anything like that during his time with the Orioles.
"Anybody is entitled to say whatever you want to. If that's how he feels, that's how he feels," Jones said. "Who am I to judge anybody on how they feel? I say something, people judge me, so if he says something, let people judge him. The Mariners took action as they see fit. I've got a game to win here in Baltimore. I can't worry about what goes on in Seattle."
The Orioles traded pitchers Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop to the Chicago Cubs in July 2013 for Clevenger and Scott Feldman. Clevenger was traded this December to Seattle for Mark Trumbo and C.J. Riefenhauser, and was batting .221 with one home run and seven RBIs in 22 games this season before his injury.