Mariners CEO resigns after 'inappropriate' comments on video
Seattle Mariners CEO Kevin Mather resigned Monday after video surfaced over the weekend of him expressing his views of the club's organizational strategy and making insensitive remarks about players.
Mariners Chairman John Stanton said Mather’s comments were inappropriate and do not represent the views of the franchise.
Mather’s resignation is effective immediately, with Stanton taking on the roles of CEO and team president on an interim basis. Stanton said Mather resigned before a decision had to be made whether to fire him, and there had been no determination yet about whether Mather will receive a severance or what will happen to his small ownership stake in the franchise.
"There were a number of comments made by Kevin that, as I’ve said, didn’t reflect the Mariners, don’t reflect what I believe, what our ownership believes, and were inappropriate," Stanton said. “Those comments included some of the things that have been referenced with respect to our players, and in particular the importance of diversity and inclusion in our organization.”
Mather issued an apology late Sunday for his comments, which were made Feb. 5 to the Bellevue Breakfast Rotary Club and were posted online over the weekend.
The video posted by the Rotary group was 46 minutes long and touched on areas of the Mariners’ organizational situation going into the 2021 season — many of which Seattle’s front office would rather not be made public.
Stanton said he learned of Mather's comments Sunday when the video and transcript was posted to Twitter. Stanton intends to travel to Arizona this week to meet with staff and players in person.
“We have a lot of work to do to make amends, and that work is already underway,” Stanton said.
Mather's departure seemed inevitable as the firestorm grew over his statements, including comments on the manipulation of service time for some top prospects — Jarred Kelenic and Logan Gilbert — and insensitive comments about international players' understanding of English.
Mather said Kelenic and Gilbert would not start the season with the Mariners so the club could have longer control before the promising young stars reached free agency. He said another top prospect, Julio Rodriguez, didn’t have “tremendous" English and he complained about the cost associated with having an interpreter for Japanese pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma.
“Wonderful human being — his English was terrible. He wanted to get back into the game, he came to us, we quite frankly want him as our Asian scout/interpreter, what’s going on with the Japanese league. He’s coming to spring training,” Mather said. “And I’m going to say, I’m tired of paying his interpreter. When he was a player, we’d pay Iwakuma ‘X,’ but we’d also have to pay $75,000 a year to have an interpreter with him. His English suddenly got better. His English got better when we told him that.”
The Major League Baseball Players Association released a statement Monday expressing concern with the video.
“The club’s video presentation is a highly disturbing yet critically important window into how players are genuinely viewed by management. Not just because of what was said, but also because it represents an unfiltered look into club thinking,” the statement read. “It is offensive, and it is not surprising that fans and others around the game are offended as well. Players remain committed to confronting these issues at the bargaining table and elsewhere.”
MLB also released a statement condemning Mather's comments. Stanton said he had talked several times Sunday and Monday with Commissioner Rob Manfred.
“We condemn Kevin Mather’s offensive and disrespectful comments about several players. We are proud of the international players who have made baseball better through their outstanding examples of courage and determination, and our global game is far better because of their contributions. His misguided remarks do not represent the values of our game and have no place in our sport,” MLB said.
The video was another transgression during Mather’s tenure with the club, which began in 1996. Mather was promoted to CEO and team president in 2017, but a year later was trying to explain allegations of harassment made by two former female employees — the former executive assistants to Mather and then-Executive Vice President Bob Aylward.
The allegations were revealed in a 2018 report by The Seattle Times. The team said it had “made amends” with those employees. The claims dated back to the late 2000s.
At the time, the club issued statements saying an outside expert conducted an investigation and “we imposed appropriate discipline, management and sensitivity training, and other corrective actions.”
The newspaper also reported that there was another settlement with a third woman, who said she felt pressured to kiss then-team President Chuck Armstrong.
Mather said it was a humbling experience for him to “confront some unpleasant realities” about himself. He took responsibility for his actions and apologized for behavior that he described as intimidating, mean and inappropriate in the workplace.