Justin Turner and his Positive COVID-19 Test

Front Page of the LA Times Sports Page

Let’s get the obvious out of the way. Justin Turner was wrong. Foolishly wrong. Stupid and unbecoming a sports role model. Turner endangered his teammates, coaches and support staff. He set a horrible example.

He blew it, big time!

He should not have celebrated on the field with his teammates after it was announced he tested positive for COVID-19.

He should not have held up the trophy and passed it to others, He should not have run around the field and in the dugout embracing teammates and Dodger personnel. He should not have posed in a team photo with Dodger Manager Dave Roberts without a mask.

His singular postgame statement was wholly inadequate and tone-deaf:

“Thanks to everyone reaching out!” Turner tweeted after the game. “I feel great, no symptoms at all. Just experienced every emotion you can possibly imagine. Can’t believe I couldn’t be out there to celebrate with my guys! So proud of this team & unbelievably happy for the City of LA #WorldSeriesChamps.”

The Dodgers won their first World Series Championship since 1988, last night and Dodger fans and others were celebrating the accomplishment and rightfully so. In the Top of the Eighth Inning, in the clinching Game 6 against the Tampa Bay Rays, news leaked out that Turner was missing from the lineup for some unknown reason.

Let’s stipulate the following which is as close to the truth as we can ascertain to date:

Sources told ESPN’s Jeff Passan “that in the second inning, the lab doing COVID-19 tests informed Major League Baseball that Turner’s test from Monday came back inconclusive. Turner’s test showed “some characteristics associated with a positive test, but the efforts to amplify the results by doctors running the tests did not say for certain.”

“Inconclusive tests are relatively commonplace in coronavirus testing. There are no known cases of the league pulling players from games for inconclusive tests. Samples taken from Tuesday then arrived and were run, sources said, and they showed up positive. The league then immediately called the Dodgers and said to pull Turner. He was replaced in the field by Edwin Rios. “We learned during the game Justin tested positive, and he was immediately isolated to prevent spread,” Manfred said.”

So far, so good. I really don’t have a problem with any of this explanation until the 8th Inning. What I have a problem with was what happened after.

One general manager texted: “A superspreader event on live TV. Welcome to 2020.” A prominent player messaged: “what the f— is going on.” Turner was apparently warned by security personnel on the field to leave the field and apparently, he emphatically refused to comply.

The failures in this incident were multiple and took place on live TV in front of millions of fans. So, what should have been done?

Major League Commissioner Rob Manfred should have gone in front of the cameras and called out Turner’s behavior. He could have even noted that MLB had, for the most part, contained the virus after the initial hiccups at the start of the season. In time, he could offer to make a significant donation to COVID-19 relef.

Justin Turner should not have been on the field. Period, full stop! I am sorry that he was disappointed. I am sorry he didn’t merit celebrating his team’s accomplishment in the moment. That’s the breaks, especially considering 227,000 Americans are dead and more than 8 Million persons are infected with COVID-19. He boorish behavior was an affront to all their memories and especially the memories of families that were denied the right to say good bye to their loved ones properly. Many of the deceased died alone and isolated in agony. His actions were an embarrassment and he should be held accountable for them.

Manager Dave Roberts is known as a players’ manager and apparently beloved nearly across the board. His skill and enthusiasm were on display until 8:38 PM PDT last night, when the final out was recorded. After that he tried to have it both ways. He wanted to show support for Turner and yet, he had to know that Turner should not have been on that field, mask-less, with what was for many a deadly disease. He gave a rousing speech on being handed the Commissioners Trophy.

What if Roberts said the following: “I accept this trophy on behalf of our friend and teammate Justin. We’re sorry you could not be on the field to celebrate with us. You did amazing things for us all year and we salute you. I hope I will be able to make it up to you sometime in the future but for now, for your health and for the health of everyone else involved, we will have to delay that public acknowledgement. We hope and pray for your speedy recovery. Get well soon, Justin. We love you.”

Can you imagine how the story would be different if something like that could have happened? Justin Turner is by all accounts before last night a stand-up guy. He’s loved in the clubhouse and by fans for his accomplishments (I still recall seeing his walk off home run in the NLCS in 2017 against the Cubs, the first Dodgers playoff walk off in 29 years (to the day!) since 1988 in Kirk Gibson’s iconic World Series Home Run (“in a year that has been so improbable, the IMPOSSIBLE has happened,” Vin Scully).

So what can Justin Turner do now to repair his tarnished reputation?

First of all, he should apologize. Heartfully. He should admit a temporary lapse of judgement. He should shout out the frontline heroes that are saving us during the pandemic like Doctors, Nurses, Fire Fighters and Police Officers and Teachers. He should make a MAJOR contribution of his World Series share to the dozens of organizations straining to provide COVID-19 relief. He should admit that he could have done better and encourage others to do the same, especially young kids for whom he is rightfully a role model. He should offer his condolences to the families in Los Angeles and around the world that have suffered during this pandemic both with the loss of life and the economic disaster afflicting 20 million Americans, many of those, in normal times, would be forking over big bucks to see his Dodgers play in Chavez Ravine. He should be contrite. If he really had balls, he’d take all the reporters’ questions at this event and answer them truthfully and not defensively.

He screwed up and the longer it takes for him to make good, the harder it is going to be for him.

So start the repentance process today, Justin. I’ll be waiting to see what you do next. Doing nothing is NOT an option!

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