Seattle Mariners president and CEO Kevin Mather resigned Monday after comments he made to a Rotary Club earlier this month surfaced and received widespread backlash Sunday.
Mariners chairman and managing partner John Stanton said in a statement Monday that he “was extremely disappointed” when he learned of Mather’s comments, which were made to a Bellevue, Washington, Rotary Club on Feb. 5 and were posted online over the weekend.
“His comments were inappropriate and do not represent our organization’s feelings about our players, staff, and fans,” Stanton said. “There is no excuse for what was said, and I won’t try to make one. I offer my sincere apology on behalf of the club and my partners to our players and fans. We must be, and do, better. We have a lot of work to do to make amends, and that work is already underway.”
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 told reporters. “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 had been with the team since 1996. He was promoted to his current role in November 2017.
Mather apologized for his comments on Sunday night.
The Major League Baseball Players Association released a statement Monday calling the video “highly disturbing.”
“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.
In his remarks to the Rotary Club, Mather spoke about former Mariners pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma — who was hired in January as a special assignment coach with the club — and his need for an interpreter and his English skills.
“For instance, we just rehired Iwakuma; he was a pitcher with us for a number of years. Wonderful human being; his English was terrible,” Mather said. “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.
“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.”
Speaking about minor league outfielder Julio Rodriguez, who is ranked by ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel as the No. 9 overall prospect in MLB, Mather said: “Julio Rodriguez has got a personality bigger than all of you combined. He is loud. His English is not tremendous.”
Mather addressed the team’s payroll and watching the financial bottom line. He said he believed top prospects Jarred Kelenic and Logan Gilbert likely will not start the season with the team as a way to manipulate their major league service time and keep them under club control longer. Mather said the club attempted to sign Kelenic to a long-term contract and was rebuffed in its efforts.
Stanton insisted roster decisions have not been predetermined and general manager Jerry Dipoto and manager Scott Servais will make the final call.
Mather also said longtime third baseman Kyle Seager would be a future Mariners Hall of Famer but also was “overpaid.” Seager is in the final year of his contract with the Mariners and will be Seattle’s highest-paid player at $18 million. His contract includes a club option for 2022.
The video was another transgression during Mather’s tenure with the club. Allegations of harassment were made by two former female employees — the former executive assistants to Mather and then-executive vice president Bob Aylward — and 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.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.