In November, MLB announced that Bob Bowman would be leaving his role as Chief Executive of MLB Advanced Media when his contract expired at the end of this year.
At the time, Commissioner Rob Manfred said of Bowman, “Bob’s vision made our game even more accessible and enjoyable to millions of fans” and the New York Times article about his departure cited MLBAM, which Bowman was responsible for, as the league’s “crown jewel” and that it “transformed how fans consumed sports.”
Most recently, Bowman oversaw “all of the league’s revenue-generating activities, like licensing and sponsorship, in addition to his Bam duties.”
Based on a new Wall Street Journal report, it appears that Bowman “stepping away” from his role was not as simple or innocent as it was made out to be at the time. The piece reveals that MLB apparently “forced out” Bowman after at least a decade of “troubling workplace behavior” that former MLB president and chief operating officer Bob DuPuy and then-Commissioner Bud Selig were alerted to, and given the post-Selig timing of Bowman’s departure, did nothing about.
While original reports said that Bowman decided not to renew his contract of his own volition, WSJ’s reporting alleges that he was instead pushed out by Manfred after he verbally abused a coworker this fall as well as got in a physical confrontation with “an executive with the group that owns the Red Sox,” although the report did not specify which executive that might have been.
The article’s rundown of his behavior includes some galling details, as well as some incidents that are now familiar to anyone following the recent wave of sexual harassment or misconduct reports in high-profile industries. His behavior reportedly included:
“propositioning female colleagues, allegedly conducting consensual relationships with subordinate coworkers and cultivating a culture of partying and heavy drinking with employees outside the office”
In one of the most uncomfortable reports about Bowman’s tenure with the league, the piece details a party that MLBAM held at the San Diego All-Star Game in 2016, at which:
...women were allegedly hired to entertain attendees, according to two people who attended. These people said the women, who arrived at the party by bus, were widely believed by attendees to be escorts. Some of them were heard encouraging attendees to leave to have sex quickly so that they could return to solicit another attendee before the party was over, according to one person who was there.
On a more peer-to-peer level, there are reports that Bowman once called two female employees “c***s” at a distance where they could still hear him in the early aughts, and another source described his office as “a holy terror.” The article also at one point compares the way Bowman ran MLBAM “like a fiefdom” which cannot in any way mean something positive when it comes to a workplace environment.
Manfred said of the situation:
“I would say that (the October) incident was the culmination of a variety of issues that had gone on over a period of time, and it precipitated a conversation in which Bob and I agreed that the best thing for him to do was to leave.”
In addition he pointed out that because MLBAM and MLB are technically two different branches of the league with separate workplace policies, he “couldn’t tell you what BAM’s policies were. I wasn’t responsible for them.” Both branches of the league will reportedly be moving into a shared office space within the next few years to more effectively mesh the workforce and how they operate, making MLBAM less “insular.”
In regards to DuPuy and Selig knowing about this a decade ago, one source said that Selig “had no interest in dealing with” the behavior exhibited by Bowman throughout his tenure. The official statement from Selig, provided by a spokesperson, goes,
“It is highly inappropriate for the Commissioner Emeritus to publicly discuss any private conversations he has had with former employees.”
DuPuy reportedly told Manfred about what he knew of Bowman’s behavior during this summer while at a country club they both belonged to, simply saying that there had been “some issues.”
While it is, in a way, heartening to see that Manfred did not allow Bowman’s repeated harassment to continue after he was made aware of multiple incidents, this is still a man the league allowed to stay in a position of influence and power for a decade or longer after first becoming aware of the way he behaved around employees and subordinates. Furthermore, Manfred allowed him to leave MLB quietly and with his reputation intact. Bowman’s behavior wouldn’t have been unearthed if it weren’t for WSJ’s reporting. This shouldn’t be put down as a win for MLB or their leadership.
MLBAM may be one of the league’s biggest moneymakers and successes, but continuing to allow Bowman to lead the team year after year with these reports out there is shameful. It echoes many other stories that have surfaced in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal in which companies enabled and covered up employee misbehavior in order to maintain their reputations.
MLBAM employees were reportedly made to take an online-training course on “preventing discrimination and harassment” that was mandatory for all staff members. However, Manfred is insisting that the timing of that course in relation to Bowman’s departure was completely coincidental.
There have been many comments about when the wave of sexual harassment comeuppance would sweep into the world of sports. With the recent allegations against NFL Network staffers and now this, it seems that time has come.
A full statement from Bob Bowman about the report is below:
The culture that started at BAM was hard working and driven. At times, it was also inappropriate and I take full responsibility.
This inappropriate behavior reflects my personal flaws and not someone else’s. This behavior and my personal behavior were wrong. To those who felt the sting of my behavior, I am truly sorry. To my family, friends and business colleagues who have been steadfastly supportive of me, and whom I have embarrassed, I apologize. And finally, to the outstanding professionals at MLB.com, my colleagues since 2000, my behavior should in no way diminish your unmatched ability, your phenomenal track record, and your record setting list of achievements as an organization.