NEW YORK • Major League Baseball (MLB) on Wednesday accused Los Angeles Dodgers star Justin Turner of “emphatically” ignoring safety protocols by celebrating his team’s World Series victory despite testing positive for Covid-19.
In a sternly worded statement, the league said he now faced an investigation following Tuesday’s win over the Tampa Bay Rays in Arlington.
The team’s veteran third baseman joined his teammates in celebration on the field shortly after learning he had tested positive.
His return to the field, which occurred right in front of Rob Manfred, Major League Baseball’s commissioner, raised questions about how the league had allowed such a lapse in its coronavirus protocols.
But MLB said on Wednesday afternoon that it would investigate the incident, placing the blame squarely on Turner, saying he had refused the orders of league security to remain in isolation.
“Turner was placed into isolation for the safety of those around him,” MLB said in a statement.
“However, following the Dodgers’ victory, it is clear that Turner chose to disregard the agreed-upon protocols and instructions he was given.
“Turner’s decision to leave isolation and enter the field was wrong and put everyone he came in contact with at risk.
“When MLB security raised the matter of being on the field with Turner, he emphatically refused to comply.”
The Dodgers had pulled Turner, 35, from the game when they learnt of his positive test before the eighth inning, but he came back to the field during celebrations.
He was seen kissing his wife, holding the World Series trophy, and hugging and talking to teammates, sometimes with a mask, sometimes without.
And he took his place at the centre of a team photograph, sitting between manager Dave Roberts and Andrew Friedman, the Dodgers’ president of baseball operations – none of whom wore a mask during the photo shoot.
Friedman admitted that the scene on the field made for bad optics, but he also seemed to suggest that sentimentality for a beloved player influenced the situation – especially with his contract expiring after the World Series.
“For him, just being a free agent, not knowing exactly how the future is going to play out, I don’t think there was anyone who was going to stop him,” he said.
Teams have been subject to regular testing since the shortened season began in July. Multiple reports said Turner’s test from Monday had come back “inconclusive” during the second inning of Tuesday’s game. That led the league to expedite processing the test from Tuesday morning, which came back positive.
The media have since slammed all parties involved in the incident.
USA Today’s Nancy Armour wrote: “The recklessness and indifference exhibited… isn’t a matter of offending anyone’s sensibilities or having conflicting opinions.
“It’s about ignoring the very real crisis our country is in.”
The LA Times felt that the virus protocols by league and club were not strictly adhered to, therefore allowing for such an occurrence.
“MLB officials should have escorted him from the stadium premises immediately after he tested positive,” said Bill Plaschke.
“Should the Dodgers have stopped him? Certainly. (They) could quietly convince him he was not only risking the Dodgers health but also damaging their reputation.”
The journalist added: “But only Justin Turner could truly shut down Justin Turner.”
NYTIMES, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE