Mariners deny ex-trainers’ claims of discrimination

Former Seattle employees say they were treated unfairly because of their race.

  • Tuesday, November 20, 2018 6:55pm
  • Sports

By Evan Webeck

The Seattle Times

A week after dismissed director of high performance Lorena Martin leveled claims of racism against the Seattle Mariners, the two Dominican trainers whose firings prompted her to speak out have also come forward to support her allegations, but could not corroborate all her accusations.

Speaking to the The News Tribune of Tacoma, former Mariners trainers Leonardo Santiago and Jose Valdez said director of player development Andy McKay and general manager Jerry Dipoto treated them unfairly because of their race.

“It seemed like Dipoto and McKay would talk to just about everyone who was of American descent and talk to them more personally and try to be involved with them,” Santiago, who had been with the club for 10 years, told The News Tribune through an interpreter, “but never with me.”

When asked if he believed that was because he is Latino, Santiago said, “Yes, because I am a Latino of color.”

“It felt like the relations between the American employees and Latino employees within the club, it felt like they were different,” Valdez told The News Tribune through the interpreter, “almost like one was superior to the other.”

The Mariners denied the claims, as they did Martin’s.

“As we have said previously, Andy and Jerry both treated everyone they came into contact with the same,” Tim Hevly, Mariners vice president of communications, said in a statement to The News Tribune. “There was certainly no difference in how they would treat a trainer if they were Dominican, Puerto Rican or anything else compared to how they would treat a trainer who wasn’t. We reject that out of hand.”

The Mariners declined to expand on the reasons they fired the two trainers. It has been reported elsewhere that neither was certified, but Santiago questioned why it wasn’t a problem before, and Valdez said the Mariners were helping him work toward becoming certified.

The culture changed when Dipoto and McKay took over in 2015, the trainers said.

“I am very grateful to the Mariners for the opportunity they gave me. They were part of my development,” Santiago told The News Tribune. “But I want to (say) that Jerry Dipoto and Andy McKay were unethical and very unprofessional. It doesn’t take anything to let your staff know with time and not wait until the last minute to let you go and not give you any explanation or reason why.

“I felt it was a premeditated, malicious act. I never did anything to Jerry or Andy for them to do this to me.”

Martin, who was fired in October and first made her allegations public on social media last Monday, accused the Mariners of “calling LATINOS LAZY, DUMB, and STUPID, especially the DOMINICANS.” (emphasis hers)

She expanded in an interview with The News Tribune, saying Dipoto once called her a “cocky Latina” and that McKay said of Dominican players: “They are lazy, and they are stupid. They are just stupid.” She also said manager Scott Servais told her you don’t see Latino managers or catchers in baseball because “they aren’t bright enough. They are dumb.”

Major League Baseball is investigating Martin’s allegations.

Santiago and Valdez, who were based at the Mariners’ Boca Chica training complex in the Dominican Republic, said they couldn’t verify Martin’s specific claims.

Dipoto responded to the allegations publicly for the first time Monday.

“I will say the accusations are unfounded, simply not true,” Dipoto said on 710 ESPN. “I feel terrible, personally, and I feel terrible for the Mariners organization and Scott and Andy that we’ve been dragged into what is really an ugly mess. My hope is that 30 years in the game for myself, 31 for Scott another 15 or so for Andy that that counts for something. We’ve carried ourselves in a professional way, treating people the right way each step, and I hope that is read loud and clear here. Unfortunately, I cannot control the behaviors of others, but I can say that this is simply untrue.”

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