The Astros took care of business on the field in Washington, reducing #Natitude to a whimpering rectitude. Now the hometown heroes are returning to Houston where we need only one win to close out the second World Series championship in three years. #TakeItBack

Finally, on Sunday the Astros began to heal their huge FUBAR off the field with a letter sent from owner Jim Crane to Sports Illustrated reporter Stephanie Apstein, which read in full, “On behalf of the entire Astros organization, I want to personally apologize for the statement we issued on Monday October 21st,” Crane wrote. “We were wrong and I am sorry that we initially questioned your professionalism. We retract that statement, and I assure you that the Houston Astros will learn from this experience.”

As reported in SI.com, this affair began over a week ago when the (now former) Assistant General Manager of the Houston Astro, Brandon Taubman, screamed at Apstein and three other female reporters ““Thank God we got Osuna! I’m so f—— glad we got Osuna!”. Taubman referring to Roberto Osuna, the closer the Astros acquired while he was suspended 75 games for violating MLB’s domestic-violence policy, during the time he played for the Toronto BlueJays. One of the reporters he targeted was wearing a domestic-violence awareness bracelet.

The Astros traded for him, aware of these allegations, for which he was never criminally charged. At the time of the trade the Astros had a Zero Tolerance policy for domestic abuse but conveniently concluded that only applied to members of the Astros and not members of other teams for whom they could obtain via trade. The trade sparked quite a bit of controversy in Houston and elsewhere about the Astros commitment to prevention of domestic abuse, only if you had a cannon right arm, which Osuna clearly possesses.

In one of the most boneheaded, tone-deaf, idiotic and stupid PR stunts of all-time, ESPN.com reported that on the Monday after the incident with Taubmen, “The Astros initially denied Apstein’s report, calling the story “misleading and completely irresponsible”” in a statement Monday. Major League Baseball (MLB) began an investigation which was exactly the last thing MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred wanted during the World Series. Other sports outlets backed up Apstein’s version of events.

As a result of the MLB investigation on Thursday, the Astros said, as reported by Jenna West in SI.com,“Our initial investigation led us to believe that Brandon Taubman’s inappropriate comments were not directed toward any reporter. We were wrong. We sincerely apologize to Stephanie Apstein, Sports Illustrated and to all individuals who witnessed this incident or were offended by the inappropriate conduct. The Astros in no way intended to minimize the issues related to domestic violence.” Taubman was terminated on that day as well.

The Astros self-imposed idiocy continued in a Press Conference that Astros General Manager (GM) Jeff Luhnow gave on Friday, where, as reported by Deadspin.com, “The most significant revelation from Luhnow’s presser, and what both explains and utterly refutes his insistence that the Astros have anything other than a diseased corporate culture, is that “many people” in the Astros organization apparently saw and approved the team’s initial statement, which accused Apstein of outright fabrication in her October 21 report. Luhnow, having spread blame around throughout his team’s front office, repeatedly declined to identify any of the individuals involved by name. None of those responsible for attempting to ruin Apstein’s career and reputation have been fired—if we are to believe Luhnow’s depiction of events, that would mean cleaning out the upper ranks of the Astros organization.”

Even more amazing, when asked if he had apologized to Apstein, Luhnow reported that he had been to too busy to do so. Why was this so amazing? Apstein was covering the Luhnow presser. One might think that Luhnow would have taken the opportunity to apologize then and there. Instead, he soldiered on with the same toxic culture attitude which seemed to have permeated the entire Astros organization over this affair. As Deadspin said, “it is still Lunhow’s position that the facts of the event are meaningfully in dispute, and “it’s not 100 percent clear what the truth is.” So Taubman’s behavior was wrong (and out of character), and the team’s response was wrong (and out of character), but also all those reporters who individually corroborated Apstein’s reporting apparently cannot be trusted”.

Clearly there is a huge culture problem at the Astros organization. At least the owner Jim Crane finally sent an apology to Apstein. But that is only the start. Why did it take MLB to be the only adult in the room and institute an investigation? If you are a woman and work for the Astros, what do you think will be the internal action if you are harassed? Do you think for one nano-second your complaint would be taken seriously? Would the Astros attack/retaliate against or fire you before any investigation? Based upon their response to Taubman, it would certainly appear that is distinct possibility.

What does such a response say about the rest of the culture of the organization? Is it that if we make a mistake, we just circle the wagons and scream out “Fake News”? At least Sunday they took one step forward.

This publication contains general information only and is based on the experiences and research of the author. The author is not, by means of this publication, rendering business, legal advice, or other professional advice or services. This publication is not a substitute for such legal advice or services, nor should it be used as a basis for any decision or action that may affect your business. Before making any decision or taking any action that may affect your business, you should consult a qualified legal advisor. The author, his affiliates, and related entities shall not be responsible for any loss sustained by any person or entity that relies on this publication. The Author gives his permission to link, post, distribute, or reference this article for any lawful purpose, provided attribution is made to the author. The author can be reached at tfox@tfoxlaw.com.

© Thomas R. Fox, 2019

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