Update: Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander J.P. Howell clarified his comments in the Los Angeles Times, repeated in the original version of this post, regarding bullying and Yasiel Puig.
Puig was not bullied by Dodgers, Howell said. Via MLB.com, he says he was misunderstood and "it's too bad got spun" like it did:
"Dude, I don't know how it happened," said Howell, who said an interview he gave while making a Thursday appearance has spun out of control.
In the interview with the Los Angeles Times, it was written that Howell said he saw teammate Yasiel Puig bullied in the Dodgers' clubhouse. On Friday, Howell insisted that's not what he said.
"Not in the clubhouse, never by teammates," he said. "I was asked if Puig had been bullied and I said yes, but I meant by fans and media and people on the outside that don't know him. Never in the clubhouse. Are you kidding? People early in the season said our clubhouse wouldn't have chemistry, and it turned out to be an awesome clubhouse -- everybody got along."
The Dodgers also made a statement:
"Bullying is an issue we take very seriously. We've discussed this with Yasiel and he has assured us that he is comfortable with the clubhouse environment as well as his teammates, coaches and support staff. As an organization, we will continue to be proactive in monitoring what goes on in and around our clubhouse."
No response yet from reporter Bill Shaikin or the Times.
Here's our original post:
When he was young, J.P. Howell of the Los Angeles Dodgers says he was different than the other kids. And they bullied him for it, he told the Los Angeles Times.
"I was smaller. I was odd. I was energetic," he said. "They didn't like that. They would try to put me down. If they couldn't do it mentally, they would do it physically. It never stops. It's every single day."
Those words were sad to hear but not terribly surprising. These words, on the other hand, were jarring: "I still get bullied."
Howell is 30. He is a millionaire. He plays for the Dodgers, one of the most celebrated teams in sports.
But, as we have learned most recently from the Miami Dolphins, neither money nor fame confers immunity upon bullying.
Howell and his wife, Heather Hennessey-Howell, recently visited a group of 4-year-olds at a school not far from Dodger Stadium to talk about bullying — how it has affected Howell, why his wife wrote a book about it and why the kids shouldn't let it happen.
One of his worst personal episodes: As a rookie, Howell lost the one suit he owned — a gift from his father — which was purposely ruined by a teammate and not replaced. Howell said he was always looking over his shoulder, out of fear, for that jerk of a teammate.
Howell not only revealed that he's been bullied, but he's seen it happen to other players on the Dodgers, too. Even Yasiel Puig.
[H]e would not discuss who was involved, or what happened to Puig.
"The guy is such a champion," Howell said. "He has such a big heart. Sometimes he acts like a jerk, but that is his defense mechanism. It's not really him.
"Someday, he is not going to be 22. He's not going to be like that. I love the guy. I hope he never changes, just maybe matures."
Stuff like that happens in major league clubhouses, with supposed adults, because it happened when the people involved were kids. They were never taught how to stand up for themselves. They were never taught not to abuse others. They were never taught to seek help. They were never taught how to recover from the emotional wounds. And then, as is the danger with any abusive situation, the cycle starts over again.
It's the same within and without the sports culture. That's why it's a good thing the Howells are talking to 4-year-olds. Start 'em young. It's the only way we'll smarten ourselves up, toughen ourselves up and break the cycle of bullying.
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