The Mariners have suspended catcher Steve Clevenger without pay for the remainder of the season as punishment for a pair of tweets he sent out on Thursday afternoon.
MINNEAPOLIS — The Mariners have suspended catcher Steve Clevenger without pay for the remainder of the season following a pair of tweets he sent out on Thursday afternoon that were critical of the Black Lives Matter movement and president Barack Obama.
“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,” general manager Jerry Dipoto said in a statement. “Today we have informed him that he is suspended for the reminder of the season without pay.”
Clevenger’s tweets first appeared on Thursday, but his account was then set to private. But multiple outlets had screen grabs of them. The Mariners later released a statement condemning the tweets. On Thursday evening, Clevenger released a statement through Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal.
Manager Scott Servais was on the team flight to Minneapolis and was unaware of the tweets until the team landed in the evening and saw the controversy created. His reaction?
“Very surprised,” he said.
Servais said he had no input into Clevenger’s punishment. Televisions in the clubhouse before Friday’s game were tuned to MLB Network and many players watched as a panel discussed and debated the subject of Clevenger and the M’s punishment. Could it be a distraction for a Mariners’ team fighting for a spot in the wild card game or to even force a play-in game for one of the spots.
“I don’t believe it will be,” Servais said. “We had a little team get together last night. A few of the guys knew what happened and a lot of guys are on social media. And you see what’s out there. I don’t anticipate it being a distraction. We’ve got 10 games left to play. We kind of know what’s at stake and where our focus needs to be and that’s on playing a good ball game tonight and beating the Twins. It’s unfortunate. I think it surprised a lot of people. But we’ve got games to play.”
It remains to be seen how the Major League Baseball Players’ Union will handle the suspension. It could ask for an immediate appeal. Reports are saying that Clevenger will not appeal the suspension.
From the MLB/MLBPA collective bargaining agreement …
An an employee under contract, the Mariners are within their rights as an employer to suspend Clevenger without pay for conduct detrimental to the organization. This was a sentiment echoed by Dan Kalish, a Seattle employment lawyer who is a former King County prosecutor.
“The First Amendment does not apply in any capacity to anything this catcher said,” Kalish said. “It only applies to government employers.”
Kalish added: “Federal law does not protect people’s political statements outside of work, and state law doesn’t either” in Washington.
As for Clevenger’s future with the organization, he’s under club control, but the team could choose to non-tender him a contract in the offseason if it wants to move on. Clevenger is on the 60-day disabled list and wasn’t expected to return this season.
Clevenger’s salary is $516,500 this season. With the suspension, he’ll lose just over $30,000 for the suspension.
Staff reporter Mike Rosenberg contributed to this report.