Earlier today, Seattle Mariners principal owner John Stanton announced that Kevin Mather had resigned as the organization’s President & CEO after making a series of indefensible comments — many about his colleagues in the Mariners organization — at a recent meeting of the Bellevue Rotary club.
The comments included petty, derogatory remarks about Mariners players, including some of the organization’s strongest prospects, which ownership is counting on getting the team back into the playoffs after a two decade absence.
After Mather’s appearance at the Rotary club made the news, Mather issued an apology and pledged to “make amends,” vowing to be better in the future.
But it was apparent to Mariners fans that Mather had to go — immediately — a position also echoed by sports columnists, both local and national.
“Straight to the point: Kevin Mather’s employment with the Mariners should be finished. Every minute he’s still on the job is a further indictment of the organization and what it stands for,” the Seattle Times’ Larry Stone wrote.
“It wasn’t just that Mather said what he did. It’s that he thinks it in the first place,” observed ESPN’s Jeff Passan. “And that he believed a group of Rotarians represented the right audience to tell his warped version of the truth.”
“And that in an apology, he deemed the episode a ‘lapse in judgment,’ as if bigotry is a one-time thing you try out on a call with strangers, or telling fake stories about the people who are the heart of the business you’re supposed to be running constitutes good management.”
“Kevin Mather should have been gone by now,” said The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal. “The Mariners should have dismissed him the moment they acted upon what the Seattle Times reported in 2018 – that before Mather became team president and CEO, he was one of three club executives accused by women of inappropriate workplace conduct, resulting in financial settlements for the complainants.”
“It is time for the Mariners to do what should have been done a decade ago. Either you care about inclusion and equality, or you don’t. Fire Kevin Mather,” Colby Patnode declared in an editorial for True to the Trident.
Mather belatedly realized his position was untenable and decided to offer his resignation, according to Stanton, which Stanton then accepted.
“Like all of you, I was extremely disappointed when I learned of Kevin Mather’s recent comments,” said Stanton. “His comments were inappropriate and do not represent our organization’s feelings about our players, staff, and fans.”
“There is no excuse for what was said, and I won’t try to make one,” Stanton continued. “I offer my sincere apology on behalf of the club and my partners to our players and fans. We must be, and do, better.
“Kevin Mather has resigned his position effective immediately. I want to thank Kevin for his twenty-five years of service to our franchise.”
“I will serve as acting President and CEO until a successor can be chosen.”
Stanton also pushed back against questions about having to rebuild destroyed trust by arguing that the organization remains guided in baseball matters by Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto and manager Scott Servais.
“I believe that Jerry is highly respected. I believe that Scott is highly respected,” Stanton told reporters. “And in the clubhouse those are the two people, Scott in particular that the players look at. I think that that’s who many of the fans look to as well. In terms of building trust going forward, you build trust over time, and you build that relationship by communicating honestly, consistently. We will do everything we can as an organization to continue to build that trust.”
Mather was already disliked by many fans, owing in part to the aforementioned sexual harassment complaints previously made against him that were settled out of court, but unfortunately, he was kept in his position when John Stanton’s ownership group bought the Seattle Mariners from Nintendo of America.
“John Stanton said publicly he was “Kevin Mather’s biggest fan” at the time Stanton ascended to lead the ownership group, which gives you an idea of the relationship between the two,” Lookout Landing’s Kate Preusser observed after Mather’s departure had been announced by Stanton.
“He was a long-tenured employee with an ownership stake in the club who was promoted multiple times before receiving the title of team president and CEO. He appeared on-field every time an important award was being given out — I know, because I’ve cropped him out of all those shots when we published them.”
Stanton had an opportunity today to completely renounce Mather and own the decision to keep Mather in a leadership position despite the evidence that he wasn’t leadership material. Disappointingly, he didn’t take it.
Asked if Mather would have been terminated had he not handed in his resignation this morning, Stanton opted to sidestep the question. He could have instead said Yes, I would have fired him. That statement should have come easily.
League brass issued a statement of their own following Mather’s resignation which was less deferential to Mather than Stanton’s statements.
“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.”
I’m guessing other clubs won’t be interested in hiring Mather. And that’s a good thing. He has proved, repeatedly, that he doesn’t have the qualities needed in a leader. It was absolutely necessary that the Mariners sever ties with him.
Now that that has happened, the owners must select a new President and CEO who will value accountability, transparency, and responsiveness and model those values for everyone in the Mariners organization — including the owners.